Clippers end losing streak with win over Denver Nuggets, 111-94
It was the kind of fling one might try in the backyard, if there was no one around to see how silly you looked.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin leaped to catch a pass from Wesley Johnson with the shot clock about to expire midway through the third quarter, launching a three-pointer while hanging in the air.
The ball went through the basket and the Denver Nuggets were pretty much sunk for the remainder of a 111-94 loss Tuesday night at Pepsi Center that ended the Clippers’ three-game losing streak.
“That was crazy,” Griffin said of his acrobatic 26-footer with his team leading by two points.
Griffin’s shot sparked the Clippers (7-7), who built a double-digit lead by the end of the third quarter and eventually erased what point guard Chris Paul described as the “eerie feeling” of being under .500.
The Clippers largely resembled the team they expected to be this season by committing a season-low seven turnovers and defending for longer stretches than they had while losing seven of their previous nine games, leading to an expletive-filled postgame tirade in their locker room Sunday after a defeat against the Toronto Raptors.
The only sound that could be heard two days later was silence. And it was sweet.
“I think this was one of the ones we just had to have, I really do,” said Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, whose 15 points included a shot from beyond midcourt to end the third quarter.
Griffin finished with 18 points and the Clippers got a boost from Johnson (11 points) in his first start of the season as all five starters scored in double figures. Center DeAndre Jordan had 18 points and 11 rebounds while making 12 of 25 free throws, four of 10 while being intentionally fouled in the fourth quarter.
The flurry of fouls led to a verbal exchange between Nuggets Coach Mike Malone and Griffin, who received a technical foul. A few Denver players stepped in front of Malone, who later said he owed the Clippers an apology.
“It will be taken care of,” Griffin said, alluding to possible action taken by the league office. “I have confidence that it will be.”
Griffin had missed his first five shots of the third quarter before his wild fling but his coaches kept telling him to shoot. Maybe not like that, of course.
“You’ve just got to see it go in sometimes and I guess that’s what it was,” said Griffin, who went on to make his next two jumpers as the Clippers took an 11-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said that only Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and Griffin had the strength to make that kind of play.
Danilo Gallinari had 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Nuggets, who were without forwards Kenneth Faried (ankle), Wilson Chandler (hip) and Joffrey Lauvergne (back) as well as center Jusuf Nurkic (knee).
The Clippers were laughing and high-fiving after Griffin’s shot and a lob from Paul to Jordan late in the game that seemed more than a mile above sea level.
“When we have fun, we’re a different team,” Crawford said, “and plays like that can jolt you.”
The Clippers were back to where they wanted to be, if only for one night in an early season of mostly struggling.
“I don’t know about relief,” Paul said, “but it just felt good.”
CLIPPERS VS. UTAH
When: Wednesday, 7:30.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Jazz 6-7; Clippers 7-7.
Record vs. Jazz (2014-15): 4-0.
The Clippers have won 13 consecutive games against Utah, their longest current winning streak against any NBA team. The Jazz has one of the NBA’s worst offenses (scoring 94.6 points per game) but one of the league’s best defenses (giving up 93.8), a combination that hasn’t been particularly effective in the season’s early going. Gordon Hayward is averaging a team-leading 16.5 points a game for the Jazz, which has lost five of its last seven games.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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