Kawhi Leonard had 21 points before taking an elbow to the face in the fourth quarter, Paul George scored 23 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets 121-108 on Friday night.
The Clippers were leading by 11 with 6:11 left as Serge Ibaka came up for a rebound and grabbed the side of his teammate’s face with his right elbow. Leonard was bleeding on the pitch before heading to the locker room.
“He got up and came down off the ground, so he’s going to be good,” Los Angeles coach Tyronn Lue said.
Leonard was sent off soon after and was being evaluated after the game, but the Clippers didn’t need him to shut down a Nuggets team that upset them in the second round of the Western Conference semifinals. last season.
Nikola Jokic finished with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for Denver, who abandoned their first two games of the season. Jamal Murray added 23 points, including 13 in the fourth.
The Nuggets recovered from double-digit deficits in the second half in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the second round series in September, winning all three and knocking out Los Angeles’ 3-1 lead to advance to the Finals of the Western Conference.
Denver couldn’t do it again, but made a run after trailing by 24 at the end of the third quarter. The Nuggets used an 11-0 run early in the fourth, and two 3-pointers from Murray reduced a deficit from 98-74 to 106-95 with 7:35 to go.
“When you’re 25, it’s all about pride and effort,” Murray said. “We wanted to play hard and let the head take care of itself. We saw the lead chip like we did in the playoffs, we just couldn’t get over the hump. “
Leonard came out soon after, but Denver never had the deficit under 10.
“They had a race, we lost Kawhi so we could have lost our temper, lost our game, but we had a good time out,” said Nicolas Batum. “We kept moving the ball and took some big shots.”