The Denver Nuggets are familiar opponents for the Clippers, having met twice this season already. Despite that, the presence of Nikola Jokić always presents an unpredictable challenge, and without Nicolas Batum (fresh off of his 32-point performance) and Marcus Morris, the Clippers were faced with a difficult matchup in the Mile High City. Ultimately, the challenge proved to be too difficult in the 130-128 overtime loss to start their extended road trip.
Ty Lue began the game with both Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac in the starting lineup as a way to contain the Nuggets’ rebounding capabilities. That worked out well for the Clippers, as Zubac chipped in eight points in the quarter alone and helped to nullify Jokić’s activity on the boards. Luke Kennard also returned to the floor for the first time in 2022, which clearly helped open up the offense. Although the Clippers entered the second quarter in a deficit, they ended the half with a 12-point lead, powered mostly by the hot shooting off the bench. Players like Brandon Boston and Serge Ibaka were key, as Boston converted on the offensive end and Ibaka effectively contained Jokić.
Boston Three Party #ClipperNation | @LAClippers pic.twitter.com/FuDILtOPCm— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) January 20, 2022
While we’d typically see the Clippers stage some sort of comeback in the third quarter, they instead were the team to give away their lead. The Nuggets crawled back and tied the game with an Aaron Gordon buzzer-beater, but it was Jokić who led his team on the court. His work in the post got him five points at the line, and his outside game shined as he hit two jumpers from distance in that quarter alone. The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth game, as Reggie Jackson powered most of the offense. With a successful challenge on a Zubac foul, an ill-timed turnover from Terance Mann, and a missed opportunity by Jokić, the tie still could not be broken by either team and thus, had an additional five minutes to look forward to.
Despite 28 points and 12 assists from Reggie Jackson, plus a 32 point double-double from Zubac, the Nuggets completed their comeback and sent the Clippers off with a loss after Aaron Gordon hit a game-winning three. Now, the Clippers get to look forward to a matchup with another MVP-caliber center in Joel Embiid (fresh off of 50 points) as they head to Philadelphia.