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Thursday's NBA playoffs: Leonard scores 29, Clippers rout Nuggets in Game 1

Associated Press

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rolled past the Denver Nuggets 120-97 on Thursday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Paul George scored 19 points and Marcus Morris added 18 for the Clippers.

Los Angeles shot 57% from the field in an effort that convinced coach Doc Rivers that his team has adjusted and is in the proper frame of mind.

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard (2) moves between Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray (27) and Nikola Jokic, right, in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista Fla.

“If you don’t execute, it’s going to hurt you, and part of that is intensity and focus, and you have to have that on every single play,” Rivers said. “I don’t think we understood that early on. I think we do now.”

Nikola Jokic scored 15 points for the Nuggets, who shot just 42%.

“I thought we just locked into our assignments,” George said. “I thought to be honest, that was the best we’ve done so far against an opponent. I think we just locked into our assignments. Our attention to detail was great. And we followed the game plan.”

Denver’s starters combined to score just 57 points on 20-for-48 shooting.

“They were aggressive,” Jokic said. “Our spacing was not good. We rushed shots. You can say whatever. It was a bad, bad night for us. … We can be better.”

Denver was coming off a seven-game series with Utah that just ended Tuesday.

“I think that definitely played a part,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “Their last game was Sunday. We had our last game on Tuesday night and didn’t get back to the hotel until after midnight. … We were tired. Tomorrow we will get them as much as rest as we can and have a more energetic performance Saturday night.”

Jamal Murray, who averaged 31.6 points in the first round and scored at least 50 points twice in that series, finished with just 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

“They are going to put everybody on Jamal, and we have to do a better job of freeing him up,” Malone said. “But also the ball is going to find the open man, and when the ball sticks and Jamal and everyone else is trying to play one-on-one and you are playing a good team, that is going to make it really hard.”

The Clippers took charge in the second quarter, outscoring the Nuggets 38-20 to take a 69-51 lead at halftime. Los Angeles held Denver to 25% shooting into the second quarter.

The Clippers continued to dominate in the third quarter, holding the Nuggets to 16 points in the period and taking a 91-67 lead into the fourth. Los Angeles’ biggest lead in the quarter was 29 points.

Toronto Raptors' OG Anunoby (3) releases a game-winning shot at the buzzer over Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown (7) in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista Fla.

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Toronto 104, Boston 103: The Raptors were a half-second away from falling into the abyss that no NBA team has ever escaped. Down by two points, down by two games, the reigning champions needed a miracle.

OG Anunoby delivered.

Anunoby caught a cross-court pass that Kyle Lowry threaded over everybody else on the floor and hit a 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Raptors a 104-103 win over the Celtics in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night.

The Celtics still lead the series 2-1. But it’s not 3-0 – and that means the Raptors still have realistic hope. The Raptors mobbed Anunoby after the shot, reveling in the moment.

The Celtics took a two-point lead when Kemba Walker found Daniel Theis for a dunk with a half-second left.

No team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-0 series deficit. The Raptors won’t have to try it now; Lowry elected to audible and throw the long pass – threading it over Boston’s 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall, who was put in specifically to disrupt the inbounds play – to Anunoby.

Lowry played virtually the whole way, finishing with 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Fred VanVleet scored 25 points, Pascal Siakam had 16, and Anunoby 12.

Walker scored 29 points for Boston. The Celtics lost for the first time in seven playoff games.

Game 4 is Saturday.

Eastern Conference

Miami 2, Milwaukee 0

Monday, Aug. 31: Miami 115, Milwaukee 104

Wednesday, Sept. 2: Miami 116, Milwaukee 114

Friday, Sept. 4: Milwaukee vs. Miami, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 6: Milwaukee vs. Miami, 3:30 p.m.

x-Tuesday, Sept. 8: Miami vs. Milwaukee, TBD

x-Thursday, Sept. 10: Milwaukee vs. Miami, TBD

x-Saturday, Sept. 12: Miami vs. Milwaukee, TBD

Boston 2, Toronto 1

Sunday, Aug. 30: Boston 112, Toronto 94

Tuesday, Sept. 1: Boston 102, Toronto 99

Thursday, Sept. 3: Toronto 104, Boston 103

Saturday, Sept. 5: Toronto vs. Boston, 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 7: Boston vs. Toronto, TBD

x-Wednesday, Sept. 9: Toronto vs. Boston, TBD

x-Friday, Sept. 11: Boston vs. Toronto, TBD

Western Conference

Houston vs. L.A. Lakers

Friday, Sept. 4: Houston vs. L.A. Lakers, 9 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 6: Houston vs. L.A. Lakers, 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 8: L.A. Lakers, vs. Houston, 9 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 10: L.A. Lakers vs. Houston, TBD

x-Saturday, Sept. 12: Houston vs. L.A. Lakers, TBD

x-Monday, Sept. 14: L.A. Lakers vs. Houston, TBD

x-Wednesday, Sept. 16: Houston vs. L.A. Lakers, TBD

L.A. Clippers 1, Denver 0

Thursday, Sept. 3: L.A. Clippers 120, Denver 97

Saturday, Sept. 5: Denver vs. L.A. Clippers, 9 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 7: L.A. Clippers vs. Denver, 9 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 9: L.A. Clippers vs. Denver, 9 p.m.

x-Friday, Sept. 11: Denver vs. L.A. Clippers, TBD

x-Sunday, Sept. 13: L.A. Clippers vs. Denver, TBD

x-Tuesday, Sept. 15: Denver vs. L.A. Clippers, TBD