Reggie Jackson, with an eight-point second quarter, led the Clippers heading into the half. And while Los Angeles entered half-time trailing 72-61, it wasn’t due to a lack of execution.
The passing of the Nuggets, spearheaded by the accuracy and creativity of Nikola Jokic, led a plethora of converted open shots from Denver. He was joined by Monte Morris, whose 12 points, three assists, and three rebounds were part evidence of a multilateral attack from Denver.
A series of consecutive, simply stifling, defensive possessions to open the second half, however, helped the Clippers build some momentum early in the third. Denver responded with a seven-point run of their own, converting off a couple of missed open looks and other unforced errors by Los Angeles.
It was a couple of ex-Clippers — Demarcus Cousins and Austin Rivers — who extinguished a Clippers run early in the fourth quarter.
Once again, the Clippers played as well as can be expected tonight. The Nuggets simply played better. While Los Angeles shot an impressive 48.8% from the field tonight, their opponents shot an even better 54.2%. A more stark difference could be found on the three point line, in which the Clippers shot just 31.3% to the Nuggets’ 50%.
Terance Mann, whose energy in the fourth was contagious and hugely influential, finished the game with 24 points and eight rebounds. His aggression sparked a number of runs for the Clippers, continued to put pressure on Denver in transition, and ultimately got Jokic into foul trouble in the clutch. His defensive intensity similarly spread throughout the team tonight, as one of the league’s best defenses proved their mettle .
After a back and forth fourth quarter, that energy brought the Denver lead to just four, with 4:!5 left in the game. The persistence and unwillingness to give up on the play by Aaron Gordon, however, kept the Nuggets ahead in the waning moments of the game.
The contributions of Isaiah Hartenstein cannot be overstated, either. Hartenstein, who Coach Ty Lue elected to keep on the floor in the clutch tonight over longtime starter, Ivica Zubac, contributed 14 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, as well as series of defensive plays tonight.
The losing streak now sits at four games. They will get their next chance to get back into the win column, however, Friday, when the host the Philadelphia 76ers.