Clippers run out of breath in Denver
DENVER — The Clippers were in search of another signature win, one that could silence some of their critics.
They didn’t get it.
The streaking Denver Nuggets rolled to a 107-92 victory on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center, their seventh win in a row.
The Clippers have had recent losses to the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, the teams many consider the best three in the NBA.
The Clippers did beat an Indiana Pacers team that is 25-7 at home in Indianapolis last week, but that seems to have been overlooked.
Now, following the loss to the Nuggets, the Clippers are 1-4 against the top teams in the NBA in the last month.
The Nuggets had seven players score in double figures, led by Ty Lawson’s 21 points and 11 assists and Danilo Gallinari’s 20 points.
For the Clippers, Chris Paul had 16 points and 10 assists and Blake Griffin had 17 points.
“There’s nothing alarming right now,” Paul said. “We still have a pretty decent record, if you ask me. We’ve just got to keep playing.”
The Clippers didn’t have top reserve Jamal Crawford, who couldn’t play because of a sore left ankle.
That meant the Clippers didn’t have their second-leading scorer in Crawford, who averages 17.2 points a game.
But Matt Barnes filled in that scoring backcourt role for the Clippers with 19 points.
The Nuggets have won 12 consecutive games at home and improved to 27-3 here. They have won 17 of 21 overall.
Though the third-seeded Clippers are 11/2 games ahead of fourth-seeded Memphis in the Western Conference, the Clippers (44-20) have more losses than the Grizzlies (40-19).
Also, the Clippers are now only 21/2 games ahead of the fifth-seeded Nuggets (41-22).
The score was tied, 49-49, at the half. Then things seemed to turn in a matter of minutes in the third quarter.
After the Nuggets started quickly in the quarter. Paul scored to pull the Clippers within three points, but the Nuggets went on a 10-0 run to open a 77-64 lead.
Andre Iguodala and Gallinari made back-to-back three-pointers, Lawson scored and Gallinari scored on a lob dunk off a pass from Lawson.
That forced Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro to call a timeout with 4:04 left in the third, but things didn’t get better.
Out of the timeout, Barnes shot an airball three-pointer. After a Griffin turnover, Gallinari scored on a dunk to extend Denver’s lead to 15 points.
It was all a part of a 36-point third quarter by the Nuggets.
“They are capable of going on runs here,” Griffin said. “They scored buckets in a hurry, in bunches. We came out in the third quarter and scored, but then they kind of went on a run again.”
The Nuggets blocked 10 shots, four by Kenneth Faried.
The Nuggets scored 16 points in the paint in the first quarter.
So the Clippers went to a 3-2 zone in the second quarter in an attempt to slow down the Nuggets.
It seemed to work just enough.
After allowing 27 points on 54.5% shooting in the first quarter, the Clippers gave up 22 points in the second on 45% shooting.
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