After Thursday’s win over the Mavericks, the Clippers roared back with one of their best wins of the season against a good, if weakened Nuggets team. From the very start, this seemed like a game the Clippers could win. They were moving the ball well offensively, getting downhill and creating open looks around the basket and from three with endless drive and kicks. On the other end, Jamal Murray was getting whatever he wanted against Avery Bradley, as was Nikola Jokic against Marcin Gortat. Still, the Clippers’ defense was otherwise solid, and the Nuggets just had no answer for Tobias Harris or Danilo Gallinari. As the subs came in, the defense let up a bit, but the offense looked good, with Lou Williams dishing all over the court.
The second unit was largely led by Ty Wallace and Mike Scott in the second quarter. Wallace airballed an open three, but did a bunch of typical Ty Wallace things, like driving to the basket and finishing. Scott did the little things, including hitting Wallace with a no-look pass for a layup, and nailing a three. The Clippers could not pull away, however, as several missed shots inside led to easy Nuggets scores in transition. The Clippers starters returned, and were able to keep a solid lead, with the surprising help of Marcin Gortat, who was able to get a number of offensive rebounds and tip-outs. The Clippers struggled to end the half, but were bailed out by Harris drawing a foul on a three to end it, putting them back up by nine.
The third quarter started much the same way as the previous two had gone, with both scoring largely easily despite good effort on defense. The Clippers’ three-point shooting continued to sizzle, with Gallo hitting a couple and even Avery Bradley getting in on the action. Nikola Jokic did his best to keep the Nuggets in it with rebounding and a three of his own, but the Clippers remained ahead by around 10. The game turned, however, halfway through the period. Jokic, who had been steaming for much of the game due to a perceived lack of calls, got a technical, and then was ejected for making a gesture at the ref who gave it to him. Gallinari made both technical shots, and the Clippers lead was 13 while the Nuggets lost their best player. As the subs came in, the Nuggets continued to battle, but the Clippers slowly pulled ahead. Montrezl Harrell went wild in the paint with a series of nice finishes, mostly off dishes from pick and roll partner Lou Williams. The lead slowly widened, and hit 17 points entering the 4th.
Seven quick points by the Clippers without a Nuggets answer had the Clippers suddenly up by 24, and Nuggets coach Mike Malone seemingly conceded by putting in some of his 3rd stringers. Most of the rest of the 4th quarter was garbage time, with a fun lineup of Shai-Ty-Sindarius-Scott-Boban getting extended run. The play was sloppy, but it was exciting, with Scott getting a tomahawk dunk, Shai driving hard for two difficult and-ones, and Boban ending it all with a trademark standing dunk. The Clippers ended up winning, 132-111 in a rout, with every player scoring and contributing positively.
- Tobi and Gallo dominate: This game might typify what Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari have brought to the Clippers this season. Each scored 21 points (in under 30 minutes), did so efficiently, and added some rebounds and assists for good measure. The Nuggets started Juancho Hernangomez and Mason Plumlee opposite the Clippers’ stars, and they just couldn’t contain Tobi or Gallo at all. The duo got wherever they wanted, scoring with ease, and never seemed to be in a hurry. There weren’t any incredible scoring flurry’s, or displays of outstanding athleticism or handles. Just quiet excellence from start to finish. If the Clippers keep up this rate of winning, both forwards should be in consideration for All Star nods in February.
- Montrezl is back: After a few rough games in a row, the Montrezl Harrell who was such a force for much of the early season is back in a big way. It’s clear that Trez, as great as he is, is largely dependent on Lou Williams to get easy buckets. The two of them have fantastic synergy, and Lou knows just where to place passes so Trez can get them for his jams. Harrell had 20 points and 10 rebounds in just 19 minutes, and was everywhere on the court, using his energy and athleticism to beat the Nuggets to the ball and the hoop. It probably takes a small amount away from his award candidacy that his play seems so tied to Lou’s playing, but with numbers like these, it doesn’t even matter.
- Shai looks splendid: Shai didn’t play well against Dallas, and only saw 19 minutes as a result. He started the game today by missing two shots in the paint, and could have gotten down about it. He didn’t, and continued to play with energy on both ends of the court. Shai started turning things around in the second quarter with a couple nice buckets, but really shined in the last two periods. He probed in the paint, finding players cutting to the basket and spotting up from three. He got his hands on the ball, leading to easy scores in transition. And, in one memorable 4th quarter series, Shai contested a three so well the ball went off the side of the backboard, collected the rebound, and then pushed it all the way up for an and-one. It would be great to see a little more consistency game-to-game from Shai, but games like this make it all worth it.
- Everyone contributes: This was one of the Clippers’ best wins of the season because it was the kind of game they need to play if they are to make the playoffs and compete in the postseason. Every player who checked in scored, and all of them positively influenced the outcome. Mike Scott had 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, generally looking like a player who could be starting elsewhere. Avery Bradley’s defense was solid, and he actually made most of his jumpers tonight. Ty brought energy, pace, and slashes to the hoop. Marcin Gortat hit the glass hard, and helped get the Clippers some second possessions. It was a beautiful game by the Clippers, with the caveat that the Nuggets are very short-handed and playing a Saturday day game in LA. Still, what a fun win for this Clippers squad.
- Clippers of November: This game looked like the Clippers’ games during their winning streak in November, when they punished teams with smooth, disciplined offense and a deep roster. Their defense was fine if not great, and effort was there across the board. With two wins in a row now, the Clippers might not be out of the woods yet, but they’re starting to see patches of grass on the horizon.
The Clippers don’t get time to celebrate, as they take on a Warriors team that is also playing tonight at Oracle tomorrow. If they bring this kind of effort and level of play, they should give the Dubs a run for it. Check back tomorrow for the game preview and thread!