Clippers defeat Nuggets, take 3-1 series lead

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Kawhi Leonard recorded 30 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 96-85 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series on Wednesday night near Orlando.

Montrezl Harrell added 15 points, and fellow reserve Lou Williams tallied 12 as the Clippers took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is Friday.

Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for Denver, which failed to reach 100 points for the second time in the series. Jamal Murray had 18 points and seven assists, Michael Porter Jr. scored 15 points, and Gary Harris scored 10 for the Nuggets.

Denver also dug itself a 3-1 deficit in the first round against the Utah Jazz before winning three straight to claim the series.

Ivica Zubac had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Marcus Morris Sr. also scored 11 points for Los Angeles, which shot 41.8 percent from the field and was 8 of 28 from 3-point range. Paul George scored 10 points.

The Nuggets shot 39.7 percent from the field, including 9 of 27 from 3-point range.

Denver recovered from an early 17-point deficit to knot the score at 48 after scoring the first eight points of the third quarter.

But Leonard and Patrick Beverley scored baskets to start a 21-5 burst. Williams ended the run with a floater to give Los Angeles a 69-53 advantage with 3:33 left in the third quarter.

The Clippers led 73-63 entering the final stanza, but Harrell took over with Leonard resting by scoring the team’s first three field goals of the fourth quarter as the lead reached 80-65 with 8:51 left.

Leonard’s steal and length of the court drive for a layup made it 88-69 with 5:44 remaining.

A short time later, Denver used a 12-2 run to pull within 92-83 on Murray’s 3-pointer with 2:09 left. But Ivica Zubac scored the next three points, and Landry Shamet split two free throws to increase the Los Angeles lead to 13 and stomp out any final charge by the Nuggets.

Leonard scored 17 first-half points as the Clippers held a 48-40 lead at the break.

Los Angeles opened a 24-7 lead on Leonard’s basket with 2:25 remaining in the opening quarter. The Clippers led 26-12 entering the second period, and led by 16 after Leonard’s hoop with 7:34 left before Denver trimmed its deficit in half by the end of the stanza.

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