The Denver Nuggets were the NBA’s fifth-rated offense during the regular season, but they have struggled to produce points in their second round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. In Game 4 on Wednesday night, Los Angeles held Denver to 85 points. It was the second game in the series that Denver was held below 100 points. The Nuggets’ inability to score at their regular rate — especially down the stretch — has them down 3-1 and just one loss away from elimination.
Rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who has been a breakout star for the Nuggets in Orlando, had a big first half in Game 4, as he tallied 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Despite the promising start though, Porter Jr. failed to score in the second half, getting only two shot attempts. After the game, the 2018 first-round pick explained why he was held scoreless in the second half.
“I just didn’t touch the ball,” Porter said, via The Denver Post. “(The Clippers) didn’t do anything different.”
Porter continued, and put the onus on play-calling, which seemed to focus on offensive touches for stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray:
“I mean, that’s really up to the play calls, that’s really up to the coaches, who they want to put the ball in whose hands. We kept going to Jokic and ‘Mal, and they’re two amazing players, you can never get mad at that. But I just think to beat that team, we gotta get more players involved, we gotta move the ball a little bit better. We can’t be predictable against that team.
“If I’m gonna be out there on the floor playing a lot of minutes, I think I should voice that (concern). I’ll probably talk to the coaches, just tell them what I see being out there on the floor. Just letting them know, ‘Look, they know what we’re doing.’ Like, we gotta swing the ball. We’ve got a lot of players who can play basketball and score. We gotta get some more guys involved.”
Porter may have a point. Jokic led the Nuggets with 23 field goal attempts in Game 4, and Murray was second with 15. Behind them, no one else had more than eight attempts. The Clippers, on the other hand, had five different players that took at least nine shots.
In the one game in the series that the Nuggets have won so far (Game 2), they had six players with at least nine attempts from the floor. This likely isn’t a coincidence. When two players dominate all of the action on the offensive end, like Jokic and Murray did in Game 4, it makes it easier for the defense to prepare, which is what Porter Jr. was saying.
“We’re beating ourselves right now,” Porter added. “We held that team under 100 points tonight and I think we had like 83. We’re too good of a team to be scoring that few points. We feel like the last couple of games we’ve just been beating ourselves. Give them credit. They’ve come in with a good game plan, but that’s not a good feeling, when you feel like you’re beating yourself.”
For the second consecutive series, the Nuggets find themselves down 3-1. They were able to come back against the Utah Jazz in the first round, but if they want to have similar success against the Clippers, they’ll have to figure out how to get more guys going on the offensive end. Denver plays for its season Friday and is an 8-point underdog, according to William Hill Sportsbook.