Entering the day, the LA Clippers knew they had a mile-high task ahead of them. Going just 5-5 in their last 10 games and still tinkering with their roster additions, while adjusting to the departures from the trade deadline frenzy, the Clippers found themselves equal-parts removed from the 5th seed and 9th place in the tight and loaded Western Conference.
The Denver Nuggets, 7-3 in their previous 10 games and 25-4 at home, recently returned to near-full health with the return of both Isaiah Thomas and Gary Harris to an already-deep roster. The Nuggets, 2nd place in the West, had a great opportunity against the Clippers to propel themselves even closer to the top of the conference. And they didn’t disappoint.
Coming into the matchup, the biggest concerns for the Clippers were rebounding and controlling the pace of the game. As expected, the Clippers lost the rebounding battle, 56-38, also allowing 12 offensive boards to the league’s best offensive rebounding team. The Nuggets, 27th in the league in Pace versus the 9th-ranked Clippers, scored 123 and allowed just 96 points from the NBA’s 7th-best offense (averaging 114.2 points per game).
The Clippers never led for a second against the Nuggets and played about as poorly as possible. In a game full of back-and-forth scoring bursts, and featuring fouls aplenty, the Clippers could not develop a rhythm and continued to look out of sorts. The Clippers started 0-14 from beyond the arc, not actually hitting a 3-point field goal until just before halfway through the 3rd quarter; they would finish the game 3-21 from beyond the arc, an abysmal 14.3%. To put today’s shooting in perspective, the Clippers have been the 2nd-best 3-point shooting team in the league, making 38.6% of their prior attempts.
Aside from turnovers, the Nuggets beat the Clippers by nearly every empirical measure. The rebounding differential was crucial, but the Nuggets also held the advantage in assists (30-20), steals (11-9), field goal percentage (51.8%-34.5%), and 3-point percentage (35.3%-14.3%). For the Nuggets, 6 players - Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Monte Morris - finished with double-digit scoring. The Clippers finished with just 3 players hitting double-figures; Lou Williams led the way (24 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), followed by Danilo Gallinari (19 points, 4 rebounds) and JaMychal Green (13 points, 9 rebounds).
The Nuggets, now 41-18, are just 1 game away from the top spot in the West. The Clippers, now 33-28, are just 1 game shy of 9th place in the West. With a chance to re-group and take care of business tomorrow night at home against the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers will look to maintain their aggressive push towards the postseason.
Be sure to check out the Nuggets perspective over at Denver Stiffs.