The good news: the Clippers can defend -- as long as they feel like it.
The bad news -- they didn't feel like it for long enough in their 109-106 loss to the Nuggets on Friday night in Denver.
After trailing at halftime by 16 points, 59-43, the Clippers opened the second half with a 16-0 run to tie the score at 59 with 7 minutes 32 second left in the third quarter. The Nuggets finally scored when Danilo Gallinari made a three-pointer with 6:30 left. The Clippers went on to lead by as many as seven points in the third.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Nuggets retook the lead, going ahead by as many as nine points. The Clippers then tied the score, 93-93, with 4:40 left. But the Nuggets pulled ahead by seven points with just over a minute left behind the strong play of Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.
The Clippers cut the deficit to three with 12.6 seconds left following a big turnover by the Nuggets and a free throw by Blake Griffin. The Clippers' superstar power forward missed his next free throw attempt -- perhaps purposely -- and in the final seconds, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul each attempted a three-pointer that would have tied the score, but they each missed. The referees later determined that Paul's was shot after time expired and wouldn't have counted even if it had gone in.
The teams shot a combined 62 free throws and had a combined 46 personal fouls.
Griffin led the Clippers (18-8) with 32 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Before Friday's game, the Clippers were 6-0 when Griffin scored 30 or more points. Crawford had 20 points and Paul finished with 17 points and 15 assists. Matt Barnes had 16 points on eight-for-10 shooting, including 10 points in the Clippers' big third quarter run.
The Nuggets (11-15) snapped their three-game losing streak with the win. They finished with seven players in double figures, including Nate Robinson, who led Denver with 20 points on six-for-11 shooting.
The Clippers host the Milwaukee Bucks at Staples Center on Saturday to close back-to-back games.