While there were brief moments when it appeared Denver might shave the Clipper lead down to single digits in the third quarter, Game Two was decided in the first quarter.  The Clippers outscored the Nuggets 32-13 - and after ‘Melo took a seat with two fouls at the 7:07 mark, the Clippers ran off a 20-7 run.  Here's how the first five minutes -- until 'Melo sat with two fouls -- broke down:

  • Denver controls the tip.  In the halfcourt, Camby sweeps across the lane a full stride ahead of Kaman.  Marcus sinks a 10-footer.
     
  • On the first Clipper possession of the night, Joey Crawford bails Cassell out as the shot clock expires. An airball is exchanged for two foul shots.

  • ‘Melo isn't going to wait for that high screen. Instead, he decides to ball-fake Quinton Ross at 17 feet.  Way short.

  • Sam pull-up jumper in transition (Sam PUJIT).  No good.  Be careful what you wish for, Clipperblog. 

  • ‘Melo collects the rebound from Camby and works the ball up in transition.  He tries to take Ross off the dribble, but is forced baseline beneath the basket and Kaman blocks the shot.

  • It doesn't take long for the Clips to run their favorite half-court set, the Side Screen Roll.  Brand probably should've taken the open 14-footer, but decides to pass it to Kaman underneath who has a mismatch with Patterson.  The ball is tipped away into the hands of Cat.  Cat tries again with Kaman - who is now guarded straight up by Elson.  Easy money for Kaman, who is cultivating some serious offensive skills.  Did he call glass? Not sure. 

  • Already you can see the Clippers sagging on Denver and the Nuggets decide to take what the defense is giving them - in this instance an open 15-footer by Miller which isn't close.  Elson grabs the offensive board - one thing the Denver bigs have done extremely well in the series.  After an off-the-ball foul is whistled on Cassell, Miller runs around a Patterson elbow screen, collects the ball from Camby, drives though the lane and has his shot blocked by Ross - who in 2:20 has asserted himself as the most important player on the floor.

  • Going the other way, a Sam PUJIT good from 14.

  • ‘Melo,  being smothered by Ross, pushes off as he spins and is called for the charge.  He appears really frustrated.

  • Mobley, who had some success penetrating in Game One, decides to burst by a high screen from Elton, but ‘Melo does a nice job of staying with him all the way.  The shot doesn't go, but with Camby coming over to attempt a block on Mobley's shot, no Nugget puts a body on Kaman -- who is there to collect the miss.  Kaman starts the night 2-2.

  • When Ross and Cassell switch ‘Melo and Miller, Sam can't run under the Patterson screen, which leaves Miller with an open shot at the top of the key, which he sinks.  Best offensive set for Denver in the quarter.  Pretty stuff.

  • You know it, you love it - the side screen roll for Elton on the high left post.  Elton is feeling it tonight: Clippers lead 10-4.

  • Justin and I have talked about Dunleavy's tendency to run perimeter traps when he doesn't need to - and against Denver, who can't shoot the ball to save their lives - he certainly doesn't need to.  Here is a case study.  Kaman comes out beyond the arc to trap Miller (why, oh, why?). Despite the trap, Miller passes it off (NBA point guard that he is) and Camby is left with plenty of space to drill the 17-footer.  We've said it before - the farther you drag Kaman from the basket, the less effective he is defensively. 

  • Mobley's penetration finds an open Ross on the weak side from 15, what Ralph Lawler refers to as "the shot Quinton Ross has to make."  Ross does. 

  • Miller has a nice drive down the lane and just misses the layup. 

  • As Sam drives the lane, Camby provides some help defense - but this leaves Kaman alone underneath.  Somehow, Cassell finds Chris.  ‘Melo is slow to pick him up and fouls Kaman. 

    That's two on ‘Melo and, effectively, the ball game.  Boykins subs in.

    (7:07)  Clippers 12, Denver 6

If you're a Clipper fan, the first quarter is sheer ecstasy from there.  Q hits a 21-footer; Elton fights off Camby for an offensive board, puts it back up for two and is fouled - a delicious sequence that forces a Denver timeout.  And how about Cat exploding past Patterson from the left wing for a driving slam? 

There's a stretch in which Denver misses five straight shots - all from beyond 15 feet - has a pass stolen away by Kaman, and a Camby shot blocked by Elton.  Maggette comes in and does his thing, earning a trip to the stripe and sinking two.

All in all, the best quarter of Clipper basketball in...well...you tell me, because in April 1997, I was packing up boxes in Washington, DC watching Moose pitch games at Camden Yards.