The Clippers dialed up their defense after a sluggish start, but the offense never picked up, leaving a 101-94 victory to the Denver Nuggets in a key Western Conference matchup. Read on for the full Clippers vs Nuggets game recap:
Clippers’ Offense Takes the Night Off
The Clippers held the Denver Nuggets to their lowest offensive output since a 112-99 loss six weeks ago. They just couldn’t muster enough of their own to take advantage.
After an uninspired start at both ends, the Clippers locked down defensively to hold the Nuggets to just 39 second-half points and MVP-frontrunner Nikola Jokić to 14 overall, but they missed too many of their own looks from near and far, neutering what could have been a seismic second-half surge. Behind a dominant Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac, and buoyed by the ascendant Terance Mann, the Clippers cut an 18-point third-quarter deficit down to one with more than half of the fourth to go, but they never found the last push needed to crest the hill.
Despite the returns of Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr., the Clippers struggled to hit from most everywhere, converting fewer than 30% of their three-pointers and only 41% overall. George scored just 17 on 33% shooting, and Morris’ two first-half threes were his only made field goals of the game.
Let’s give Denver some credit here, especially for the first half. The Nuggets used their length and activity, now augmented by two-time Dunk Contest near-champion Aaron Gordon, to contest the Clippers’ best looks and run them off of others. Gordon fit seamlessly into a Denver defense that menaced when engaged. But the Clippers did themselves few favors, running stagnant sets set up for failure against Denver’s aggressiveness. Their lack of meaningful ball movement resulted in just eight first-half assists and 17 overall.
Unsurprisingly, the Clippers’ third-quarter execution improved with their ardor. Kawhi, who led the Clippers with 24 points and 12 rebounds (six offensively), scored 11 in the third frame to keep the game within reach. Forced turnovers led to transition opportunities, but the Clippers frequently found ways to flub those, as well as a number of bunnies near the rim.
It wasn’t until Zubac emerged as a towering two-way force in the fourth that the Clippers would take an encouraging chunk out of Denver’s lead, using an 11-0 run to get as close as they ever would. Zubac finished with just eight points and four rebounds, but his two blocks start to demonstrate his mammoth impact. For stretches, he was the best player on the floor.
For other stretches, Terance Mann may have been the most important Clipper, pairing his characteristic activity with a self-assurance that is becoming more regular. He scored 18 on eight-for-10 shooting in 27 minutes off the bench, bringing the north-south element this team is often searching for.
Denver built their lead, and eventually closed out the win, with an offensive attack that flowed from all hands and from all around the floor. Jokić may have been tamed, making just six of 16 shots from the floor, but he’s a keen and accurate passer too. (Note: gross understatement intentional.) His seven assists led the game, and he eagerly sought out the many weapons at his disposal.
When the Nuggets weren’t bombing away — they shot 52% (13-25) from three — they were cutting deep. Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. were Jokić’s favorite receivers, savvily sliding to the open basket when their big man was loaded up on. What stands out above even their long-range accuracy was their equality. All five Denver starters scored between 14 and 23 points and attempted between 11 and 18 shots, with Jamal Murray leading his team in both. Gordon, who added six rebounds, six assists, three steals, and two blocks looks to be the key that unlocks a dangerous five-man lineup.
Tonight’s result brought the Denver Nuggets even with the Clippers, Lakers, and Blazers in the loss column in a mid-table scrum. The race for home-court advantage is heating up. With two full days off before a Sunday matinee with the hated ones, the Clippers can work on doing the same.
Well, that about does it for this recap of the Clippers’ game against the Nuggets. Stay on the lookout for Lucas’ player grades tomorrow morning, and an episode of TLTJTP soon.
213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.