The lead up to this game was peculiar. Coach Hughes stated after the Raptors debacle that DJ would start but the lineup would be different. Would EJ or Kaman get benched for uninspired play? Then, this morning, Ralph reported that Kaman would not play because of a bad hip. I did not want to imagine what the game would look like without Baron or Kaman. A few hours later, Ralph reported that Kaman was feeling better and that he actually would play. After all that, the familiar starting lineup of Blake-Gordon-Butler-Gooden-Kaman took the floor.
The Clippers opened the game strong, leading 7-0 thanks to some low post play by Kaman and Gooden and a 3 by EJ. They led by 8 for most of the quarter, thanks to 3 threes by Steve Blake, 2 threes from EJ, and an off balanced buzzer beater by Bobby Brown. Of course, what's a Clippers quarter with a DeAndre Jordan airball? He slightly redeemed himself by blocking a shot on the next play. Overall the Clips shot 76% in the quarter, to which Kim Hughes said he was pleased but not surprised. Maybe they had a really good shoot around.
The second quarter was not as fun, but it provided the most entertainment. The Clips started solidly with DJ affecting shots in the paint and some timely makes by Outlaw, including an incredibly long 4 point play. EJ followed that with an even more impressive one-handed tomahawk slam. This gave the Clippers a comfortable 20 point lead. Looking for a spark, the Nuggets went small by putting Carmelo at the 4 and employing a zone defense. The Clips were perplexed. It looked like the And 1 mixtape tour out there with all the turnovers and layups. The Nuggets pushed the ball on every possession and the Clippers had no answer. The 20 point lead was no more. The score at the end of the half was Clippers 55-Nuggets 47.
The start of the 3rd was eerily similar to the last time the Clippers played in Denver, and Coach Hughes took a quick timeout. Steve Blake hit a 3, which was his 4th in 4 tries, but DJ entered and Petro started playing like an all star. He nearly matched his season high of 13 points in the 3rd quarter alone with an assortment of tip-ins, jumpers, hook shots, and added some offensive rebounds. DJ looked clueless out there, which was most disconcerting. After some stagnant one on one plays, the Clippers finally decided to give the ball to EJ, but the Nuggets had already taken the lead. Renaldo Balkman even entered the game, making his 10th appearance all season, his first since March 3rd. At the end of the quarter, the Clippers were only down by 5, which was surprising.
The fourth quarter started and neither team played relatively well, as the difference stayed at 5 for a while. Then our play got sloppy. DJ had a classic What-the-hell-was-he-thinking? play. Carmelo had rebounded the ball but made an errant pass right into DJ's hands. Instead of waiting for a ball handler to run back downcourt, he tried to do a monster slam from around the free throw line, but Carmelo poked the ball away. Fortunately, EJ was continuing his solid play, driving to the hoop and getting lots of layups. The game broke open when the Clippers went with the unfamiliar Blake-Brown-Gordon-Butler-Gooden lineup. The score was 88-83 and the lead stretched to 12. At the 4:26 mark Kaman checked in for the first time in the quarter but it was too late.
Turnovers killed the Clippers this game. The high-assist low-turnover Steve Blake had 9, more than the entire Nuggets team (7). Unacceptable. Chris Kaman started out strong, but disappeared after the 1st quarter. Travis Outlaw now has a groin injury. The two bright spots were EJ's 23 points on 9-15 shooting with 4 assists and 4 rebounds and Ralph's exclamation that the Clippers were getting new uniforms next year. The Clippers can now offer Lebron a coach, GM, and uniform of his choice. Sweet.