They were six seconds that showcased the dual brilliance of DeAndre Jordan.
Sensing the play about to develop early in the third quarter, the Clippers center moved across the lane to block Darrell Arthur’s shot against the backboard with his left hand. Jordan then sprinted down the court, catching a lob from Chris Paul and dunking the ball ferociously with his right hand.
Jordan roared in approval at his double impact, which was largely the story of the Clippers’ 105-90 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
The Clippers learned they would get Blake Griffin back next weekend after he completes a four-game suspension for punching a team assistant equipment manager but continued to persevere with Jordan manning the interior.
Jordan has become a more reliable two-way threat, his offense transcending dunks now that he has added finger-roll layups and hook shots to his arsenal.
“He’s expanding his game, he’s improving and he works at it,” Clippers forward Paul Pierce said. “It’s something he does on a daily basis. If he gets his free-throw percentage up to 70%, then you’re looking at an MVP candidate.”
Jordan was even slightly better than normal in that department Sunday. He made two of four free throws, an improvement over his 43.9% accuracy coming into the game, but it was his defensive presence that mostly thwarted Denver.
Ten seconds before he blocked Arthur’s shot, Jordan had swatted Gary Harris’ driving layup. His presence alone changed the way the Nuggets played.
“For every shot that he doesn’t block, he has guys hesitating,” Denver Coach Michael Malone said. “And I felt we were very passive at times tonight once he blocked a couple of shots.”
The Nuggets entered the game without forwards Kenneth Faried (back) and Danilo Gallinari (ankle), stirring reminders of the Clippers’ recent losses to undermanned Memphis and New Orleans.
They avoided a similar fate after outscoring the Nuggets, 25-12, in the third quarter to break open a taut game. Paul finished with 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds, his bid for a triple-double ending when Coach Doc Rivers sat the starters in the fourth quarter.
Jamal Crawford (14 points), Wesley Johnson (13) and Jeff Green (13) were strong off the bench for the Clippers, with Green continually attacking the baskets for dunks and Johnson ending a slump by making five of six shots.
The Clippers improved to 28-14 without Griffin, who is expected to return April 3 against the Washington Wizards after serving the final three games of his suspension. Their success has largely been tied to Jordan, who said he didn’t envision his role changing once Griffin reenters the lineup.
“Blake’s a great interior passer,” Jordan said, “so I think I’m going to get the same looks and the same shots in our offense.”
“D.J.'s job was to believe it and do it. D.J. has done it,” Rivers said. “This is the most I’ve seen him work on his game on both ends, offensively as well. It’s just good. It’s a testament to him.”