The Clippers fell to the Nuggets 112-91 on the tail-end of a back-to-back on Thursday. Our three ClipperBlog writers explain what happened.
1. What was the difference between this matchup and the first with the Nuggets?
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: The second half. The Clippers were thoroughly outplayed in the last two quarters tonight, while conversely they gritted out a tough victory in Denver a few days ago. Mainly, the Nuggets hit shots tonight that they didn’t in Denver. Paul and Griffin never found a proper rhythm. Oh yeah, and I think that Ty Lawson guy makes a difference too.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Pretty much everything. Nene didn’t dominate on offense this time around, but Danillo Gallinari and Ty Lawson (back at full strength after being injured in the first match-up) killed the Clippers. The Nuggets were the better rebounding team, too. Chauncey Billups wasn’t hitting open or closed shots when he was hitting both last time around, and despite the Clippers getting solid offensive support from a lot of other sources tonight, they needed a lot more shots to fall from deep to make up for the horrid defense and rebounding.
Jordan Heimer, ClipperBlog: It’s tough to separate perception from results: everyone looks tired when they miss shots. Last week, Chauncey Billups was unconscious, torching the Nuggets for 32 in his return to Denver. Tonight he was 2-9. The rest of the perimeter shooting wasn’t much better as the Clips made just 8 of 27 from deep. Whether it was tired legs or a hot team returning to the mean doesn’t make much difference.
2. Vinny Del Negro played Chris Paul in the fourth quarter with a 26 point deficit because ______.
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: Because he’s the Clippers’ only facilitator and resembles their only form of a true offense. When he’s out of the game, L.A. seems to crumble by treating the area inside of 18-feet as a no-entry zone. Williams and Billups can score and create in bursts, but not in the methodical, Dexter-esque way Paul can.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: I don’t know. My best guess is so that he (and everyone else) could enjoy seeing Chris Paul out there on the floor, even in garbage time. This seemed like a golden opportunity to give the now-activated Eric Bledsoe some heavy mop-up minutes, so I’m certainly not happy.
Jordan Heimer, ClipperBlog: … Vinny wanted to pad CP3′s case for Player of the Week? Because he wanted Paul to work on his rapport with Brian Cook? Mystifying.
3. What’s the takeaway from this loss?
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: Honestly, not much. The Clippers looked tired and sluggish and were overdue for some bad luck (c’mon, there has been some good luck involved in their last few games). We’ve seen them play like this before (San Antonio, Chicago, Utah). We’ve also seen them beat Miami, Oklahoma City, this same Denver team and the Lakers. Lob City is like a fortune cookie — you never know what you’re gonna get, but most of the time you like it.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: The Clippers are an elite team when everything is clicking offensively. Sadly, the team is weak on the boards and weak in transition defense, and those are two bad spots to have struggles. Other top teams in the NBA can really make the Clippers look silly, and as exciting as the big wins are for the Clippers, we’re likely to see just as many games like this one over the course of the season.
Jordan Heimer, ClipperBlog: If ever there was a “schedule loss” this was it. The Clippers played their fourth game on five nights against perhaps the league’s deepest team. The takeaway is that the Clippers four game winning streak over Western Conference playoff teams established them as a contender themselves… Nothing that happened tonight changes that in the least.