Rocky, the Denver Nuggets’ lightning-tailed mountain lion mascot, stood at midcourt, his back to the basket. He launched the ball blindly over his head six times and missed. And on the seventh try, he made the trick shot.
It took the Clippers 15 tries to make one from deep Sunday afternoon — and they, presumably, were looking at the basket.
The Clippers made only three of 21 shots from three-point range in a 123-96 loss to the Nuggets, their worst defeat since losing by 38 in San Antonio on Dec. 13.
“I can do media for everybody,” Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell said once the locker rooms opened. “They beat our (butts).”
But it wasn’t just their shooting that hurt the Clippers against Denver, the No. 2 team in the Western Conference. It was virtually every aspect of the game — offense, defense, strength and energy all tipping in the Nuggets’ favor.
“I didn’t think we played very well. I would love to say it was our shots missed,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought they were the tougher team. They got most of the loose balls. They beat us down the floor. I thought it started on the defensive end, and then in the third quarter, I thought it was our offense that let us down.”
The Clippers, who never led, managed to keep the game close in the first half thanks to 22 trips to the foul line, but they scored only 21 points in the third quarter and 19 in the fourth, with Denver’s lead quickly ballooning to 20-plus points.
“We weren’t coming back,” Rivers said. “They’re better than us. They’ve proven that.”
The Clippers got 24 points from Lou Williams and 19 from Danilo Gallinari — whose total matched the combined output of the other four starters — but the rest of the team combined to shoot just 18 for 59 (30.5%).
Bad games happen, but Rivers didn’t like how it affected some of his young players, namely rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The 20-year-old point guard scored one point and missed all nine of his shots, including three from three-point range. The Clippers were outscored by 24 points with him on the floor, worst on the team.
“No one is going to feel sorry for you. I’ll hug him or whatever but this is the NBA. You’re going to have bad games,” Rivers said. “The great ones, you have to be willing to go 0-for and not change your body language. I thought he did. I thought Shai started pressing.
“He’s young, and he’ll learn that. But if you want to be great, you have to be willing to go 0 for 20 and keep playing and still keep doing other things.”
Gilgeous-Alexander left the locker room without speaking to the media.
Williams said he doesn’t believe in going out of his way to offer advice or consolation to young players.
“Sometimes you don’t tell them nothing. You just let it burn, and hopefully, he’ll motivate himself to get ready for the next one,” Williams said. “I think sometimes with young players, every night it’s a speech. Everyone has something to say. I think you have to let guys go through it.
“It won’t be his last bad game.”
Zubac without helping hands
In his final stretch with the Lakers, center Ivica Zubac fractured a small bone on the middle finger of his left hand. And he already has hyperextended tendons in his right hand since joining the Clippers.
He’s been able to play through both injuries, though it hasn’t helped his reputation as a big man with terrific hands.
“Mine aren’t working,” he said with a laugh. “I know what I can do. I just have to play through it. There aren’t excuses.”
When: 7:30 p.m., Monday
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