‘Ottawa’ Jokic Has 24 and 10, Nuggets Beat Depleted Clippers 106-102
LOS ANGELES — The Denver Nuggets have known their share of injuries, so they weren’t feeling much sympathy for the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.
The Clippers were without their three leading scorers: Blake Griffin (knee surgery), Chris Paul (hamstring) and J.J. Redick (hamstring). But they were able to fight back from a 17-point deficit to start the second half and take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.
In the end, though, the Nuggets had Nikola Jokic and too much depth as they held off the Clippers for a 106-102 victory.
“Even though they are undermanned, we don’t care about that,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “Pressure on the road and they have all the momentum, we stepped up and made enough plays down the stretch.”
Jokic had 24 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Danilo Gallinari and Will Barton each scored 23, and the Nuggets outrebounded the Clippers 51-38.
Jokic scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a key 3-pointer that broke a 95-all tie and gave the Nuggets the lead for good.
“He was good tonight,” Los Angeles guard Austin Rivers said. “He is a really good player.”
The Clippers were led by Jamal Crawford’s 24 points and six assists. Rivers had 19 points and five assists.
Those two started in place of Paul and Redick, which left little on the bench for Los Angeles.
“I thought we lost our energy,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I did see fatigue down the stretch.”
The Nuggets held the Clippers at the 95-point mark for 5 minutes. Crawford missed three shots in that stretch, Austin Rivers turned the ball over twice and missed a shot, and Raymond Felton also missed a shot.
Los Angeles did not score again until Crawford hit a layup with 1:14 left.
“Story of the game is fourth quarter, only one turnover and we held them to 43 per cent (shooting),” Malone said.
It was the third consecutive loss for the Clippers, all without Paul.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets avenged a 17-point defeat in Los Angeles last week. In that game, the Clippers had more firepower available.
“They wouldn’t have cared if we were short-handed,” Barton said. “This is the NBA and they still have good players out there. No one wants to hear it. You either win or lose in this league.”
Nuggets: Wilson Chandler, who missed last season following hip surgery, started his sixth consecutive game. In his previous seven starts, he was averaging slightly more points (19.3 to 16.1) than as a reserve this season. He scored two points Monday.
Clippers: Los Angeles has played four games in five days. “Almost as bad as the injuries,” Doc Rivers said. … For the first time in the five games Griffin (knee surgery) has been out, Paul Pierce did not start. He was averaging only 13 minutes per start. … C Diamond Stone, 19, was sent down to the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA Development League.
DOWN ANOTHER STARTER
The Clippers were already playing without their two biggest stars — Paul and Griffin — when they had to go without Redick on Monday. The team’s starting shooting guard injured his hamstring Sunday against the Lakers. Doc Rivers is uncertain when Paul or Redick will return.
“You just don’t know with hamstrings. The one thing you do know that I think we’ve learned over the years is that you have to be more cautious than if it was a sprained ankle,” the coach said.
In addition to his 23 points, Barton had eight rebounds and six assists off the bench. “I take a lot of pride in closing games out. I want to be our closer, fourth quarter when the game’s on the line. I will do anything it takes to get a win,” he said.
Nuggets: Return home to host the Timberwolves and emerging stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins on Wednesday.
Clippers: After playing five games in seven days at Staples Center, they head to New Orleans on Wednesday. The Clippers are 2-0 against the Pelicans this season.