The Clippers were so close to reassembling their full roster (aside from Paul George and, of course, Kawhi Leonard)—and then we got the news that Nicolas Batum was heading into health and safety protocols. Then, Marcus Morris was ruled out for personal reasons. Either of those two would have been nice to have in this overtime thriller, but unfortunately this type of news is standard for this season. The Clippers ended up starting: Reggie, Terance, Amir, Serge, and Ivica. Luke Kennard did in fact come back, at least, playing 27 minutes off the bench.
The Clippers started a little slow and sloppy, but would finish the first quarter down by only four (29-25) after being down by as many as nine. Ivica Zubac was hot early, going 4/5 from the field (eight points). Jokic, of course, led the Nuggets with nine of his own. Denver also established their perimeter shooting early, with five made threes (out of 11 attempts).
In second period, the Clippers started to take control of the game, eventually taking a 12 point halftime lead after winning the frame 34-18. The Clippers bench—especially Hartenstein, Boston, and Winslow—took advantage of the non-Jokic minutes. At half, Reggie led both teams in scoring with 15 (6/9 from the field).
After halftime, the Nuggets returned the favor, erasing the Clippers lead and tying it up going into the fourth quarter. Although the Clippers scored 22 in the third, they went over seven minutes without hitting a field goal (H/T Adam Auslund). Eric Bledsoe finished the quarter strong, though, hitting two threes and another shot to keep the Clippers in it.
But the Nuggets forced Ty Lue into an early fourth quarter timeout after starting the final frame with a 5-0 run. The rest of the quarter was a seesaw until the Clippers went on a 18-7 run to take an eight point lead with four minutes to play in regulation (H/T Andrew Grief). Jokic continued to get to the free throw line (he finished the game with 14 FTA), and the Nuggets worked their back back into it. Reggie had 10 fourth quarter points on 5/9 shooting—including taking it right to Jokic several times.
The Nuggets eventually edged out the Clippers in overtime after a perfect, cross-court pass from Jokic found Aaron Gordon (a 32% three point shooter) in the corner for the game winner. Reggie Jackson nearly hit a half court stunner after the Nuggets gifted the Clippers a few seconds to draw up a play during a technical shot, but it was just a little strong off the backboard.
Ivica Zubac, the Beast: Zubac finished the game with a career-high 32 points (on 15/19 from the field), along with 10 rebounds (6 offensive), three assists, a block and a steal. What’s more, he was finishing tough shots around the rim, hitting floaters, and even took the ball coast-to-coast in transition. At the very least, this was an awesome test for Zu, taking on Jokic (who had 49 points of his own) at both ends of the floor, which he passed with flying colors.
Brandon Boston, team-leader in +/-: Boston was +16 in his 27 minutes and scored 16 points (6/13 FG, 4/7 3P). He had a few ill-advised shot attempts and defensive breakdowns, but was part of the second quarter scoring burst and had 10 points in the 4th and overtime. These reps will be huge for his development and confidence.
Watch out for this Last Two-Minute report: The Clippers were only granted 12 free throws all game; Nuggets got 25. Jokic himself took 16. After the game, Ty Lue hinted that he was holding back from expressing how he felt about the game. Corey Maggette, free from threat of NBA fines for criticizing the officiating, filled in some of the gaps, saying that the free throw discrepancy was likely a source of frustration.
That does it for our recap of this overtime thriller in Denver. The Clippers will take on the 76ers in Philly on Friday. Until then, check out our site and podcast for more news and analysis.