Chris Paul quickly called a timeout with 9:50 left in the third quarter and immediately walked over to Clippers trainer Jasen Powell, his body hurting after he took a blow to his right forearm from one of the Denver Nuggets players and from a calf injury.
Paul was forced to gut out the rest of the game in pain, but the Clippers were unable to dig down enough, falling 87-81 to the Nuggets on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
His team shot a franchise-record 46 three-pointers — which was more than half of the Clippers' 85 field-goal attempts — and made only 13 (28.3%).
After Paul called the timeout, he was shaking his arm and stretching his legs while Powell watched, the crowd quiet. He returned to play after the timeout was over, but when he left for a rest near the end of the quarter, Paul sat on the bench looking downcast while the Clippers' training staff attended to him.
Paul returned to play, finishing with 17 points and 10 assists. But he had his forearm wrapped up when he spoke to the media after the game.
“I caught an elbow to my forearm,” Paul said. “But I'm all right.”
Paul has been dealing with a bruised left thigh sustained against Golden State on Saturday night, and now he has two injuries more to add to his list.
“Yeah, I'm good. I'm good,” said Paul, which is his standard answer after he gets injured. “I'll come in [Thursday] and get treatment and get ready for Friday. It's a tough loss.”
A three-pointer by Gary Harris with 1:58 left spelled the end for the Clippers, putting them in an 85-80 hole.
The Clippers never recovered after giving up the final 14 points in the second half and trailing 53-39 at the break.
“Clearly I didn't like how we ended the second quarter. It was a tie game with 2:49 left in the second quarter,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “It was the end of that quarter that changed the game.”
Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 21 points.
With 25 regular-season games left, the Clippers already are thinking playoffs.
If the postseason started today, the Clippers would be the fourth-seeded team in the Western Conference and they would have the home-court advantage for a first-round series against Memphis.
“Right now, it's more about playoff season,” Pierce said. “There's only 25 games left so all the motivation is there no matter who we play.
“We're trying to position ourselves to have home court in the first round, and possibly push up to the three seed. So I think the motivation is there regardless of who we play. The opponent really doesn't matter.”
The Clippers will try to keep the pressure on the third-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping they can get the third seed in the West.
If that happened and the Clippers win their first-round series, they would face the San Antonio Spurs in the second round and wouldn't have to face the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors until the conference finals — if they were to get that far.
“At the end of the day, it's pretty much pick your poison with San Antonio or Golden State anyway,” Pierce said. “So we know no road to the Finals is going to be easy. So it's a tossup. It's a matter of who we want to play.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner