It took until January 19 for the Clippers to lose a game in the year 2017, but now the Clippers are back on another losing streak with PG Chris Paul out of the lineup. While the Clippers blew a lead against the Timberwolves Thursday night, they never showed up in Denver on Saturday night, trailing by as many as 35 points and losing 123-98 in a game they never led. It was the first time in 19 games that the Nuggets kept an opponent under 100 points, and it was the worst Clippers loss in Denver in nearly 17 years.
Top Performer: Four Nuggets scored at least 18 points, and while C Nikola Jokic led Denver with 19 points and 10 rebounds, SF Danilo Gallinari was a mismatch all night long with 18 points on 5-of-8 FGs (62.5 percent). Gallinari also made 2-of-3 threes and 6-of-6 FTs while playing a game-high 31:41. Gallinari has scored at least 17 points in all 3 meetings against the Clippers this season.
X-Factor: While the Clippers tied a season-low with 8 FT attempts (all makes), the Nuggets made 21-of-26 from the line. That 13-point margin from the line was tied for the 2nd-largest deficit for the Clippers this season. LA did an embarrassing job of defending without fouling in Denver. C DeAndre Jordan was the only starter to finish with more rebounds than fouls, and Jordan had a team-high 5 fouls in only 27:12, his fewest minutes in 4 5-foul games this season.
Major Moment: When starting PG Austin Rivers scored with 8:56 left in the 3rd quarter, the Clippers trailed 61-53, the closest they were since early in the 2nd quarter. Denver called a timeout, and this was the first play they ran out of it:
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 22, 2017
Oh yeah, the Clippers wouldn’t sniff single digits after that. In fact, that Barton alley-oop was the first of 11 straight possessions that ended in Denver points! The Nuggets went on a 27-9 run over the next 6:30 after the timeout at 8:56 left in the 3rd, with Barton outscoring the Clippers by himself with 12 of Denver’s points. The Nuggets made 11-of-14 FGs during this stretch, and they grabbed offensive rebounds at the end of all of those misses; that’s right, the Clippers went 6:30 without a defensive rebound! And Jordan picked up 3 fouls during Denver’s run, culminating with a technical foul for getting into it with Jokic. Even when Denver PG Jameer Nelson ended the consecutive possessions scoring run with a turnover, Gallinari made a technical free throw just before that bad pass to put the Nuggets up 26.
Key Lineups: The Clippers switched up the starting lineup in an effort to combat Denver’s frontcourt size, going with PF Marreese Speights next to Jordan and SF Luc Mbah a Moute while starting Rivers next to SG J.J. Redick in the backcourt. Due to Rivers’ first half foul trouble, that lineup only lasted 3 minutes the entire night, getting outscored 9-6 and compiling a net rating of -35.5. That lineup was scrapped to begin the 2nd half, as the Clippers went with the Rivers-Redick-Mbah a Moute-Felton-Jordan lineup. That unit was even worse, compiling a -42.9 net rating while getting outscored 21-15 in 8 minutes.
Denver got a brutal night from PG Emmanuel Mudiay (0-for-8 FGs, left game due to back injury), but Nelson filled in with the starters for 7 minutes, and that unit outscored the Clippers 24-13 while compiling a net rating of 109.8. The Nelson/starters unit shot 10-of-12 from the field while making all 4 threes and compiling an offensive rating of 218.2.
The Definition: The loss brings the Clippers into a tie in 4th place in the Western Conference with the Utah Jazz at 29-16. It was LA’s 2nd-worst loss of the season, and one that head coach Doc Rivers and PG Austin Rivers are eager to move on from.
“You don’t stop playing,” Doc said. “They’re going to have a game on Monday regardless of if we’re ready or not. We got tonight to feel bad for ourselves and go to a bar or do whatever you do; you get back up, you go to practice tomorrow, you get ready for Monday’s game, that’s the big boys of the NBA.”
“I don’t want to watch the film after this game,” Austin Rivers said. “I am moving forward to Atlanta and I think we have to show up and play and compete that’s it and let everything else come to us.”