Nothing has ever come easily during the Clippers' 50-year history.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1984, they recorded losing records in 17 of their next 19 seasons.

When they did, eventually, make the playoffs with consistency, their appearances were short-lived, never extending beyond the second round, and often ended with heartache.

Fourteen months ago, the Clippers built a roster to change that. Hours before they traded for Paul George and signed free agent Kawhi Leonard, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake ripped through the California desert. It felt like a sign of the Clippers' intent to shake up the NBA.

But with one game remaining in their Western Conference semifinal against Denver, it's the Clippers who appear on unsteady ground.

Los Angeles built a double-digit lead in Sunday's Game 6, giving itself a chance to close out the Nuggets and advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

Instead, for the second consecutive game, they froze during key moments against the irrepressible Nuggets and allowed a stunning comeback to extend this series after Denver's 111-98 victory.

Game 7 is 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

The Clippers were outscored by 29 points in the second half as their 19-point lead in the third quarter dissipated in the NBA's bubble near Orlando, Fla. Denver made seven of its nine three-pointers in the fourth quarter and shot 61% from the field overall during the final 12 minutes. They played like a team that called itself "loose" and "relaxed" facing elimination.

The Clippers, meanwhile, made six of their 18 shots in the final quarter while displaying none of the poise that helped them weather Denver's bid to get back into the game during the first half.

Seven-foot center Nikola Jokic scored 34 points to lead Denver. George scored a team-high 33 for the Clippers and Leonard added 25 points.

The Clippers trailed 8-2 within the first three minutes of the game but scored 11 unanswered points during the next three for a quick five-point lead. With backup center Montrezl Harrell struggling throughout the second round, coach Doc Rivers adjusted his rotation by making backup forward JaMychal Green his first big-man substitute and playing him alongside center Ivica Zubac, with the intent of guarding Jokic with the 7-foot Zubac as often as possible.

Green immediately followed an offensive rebound with a layup and finished the first quarter with six points, more than he'd scored in his last two games combined.

In the Clippers' Game 5 loss, Rivers lamented the undisciplined play late in the first half that loosened his team's hold. On Sunday, a 10-2 run by Denver cut its deficit to four with eight minutes before halftime and just two with five to play. But there was no repeat of the Game 5 malaise as a 16-2 Clippers' run created a 16-point halftime lead.

Two minutes into the third quarter, Nuggets star Jamal Murray fell hard to the court after having his shot blocked at the rim by George. Writhing in pain, Murray did not get up. George did and stepped into an open three-pointer for a 19-point lead. Murray stayed in the game, battered but unbroken, much like his team.

As they have since falling behind Utah 3-1 in the first round, the Nuggets refused to quit and cut a 19-point Clippers lead to one during a six-minute span in the third quarter that saw the Clippers miss 10 consecutive shots. George was a lone bright spot, scoring 10 of his team's 16 points in the quarter.


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