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Nuggets fall to Clippers 103-96 in preseason debut

The Denver Nuggets fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 103-96 in the preseason debut. Emmanuel Mudiay finished with 14 points on 5-18 shooting and Joffrey Lauvergne scored a game-high 16 points and added 11 rebounds.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 103-96 in their first preseason game of the season.  The shorthanded Nuggets were without Danilo Gallinari and Darrell Arthur, who both got the night off for rest. Jusuf Nurkic, who is still recovering from knee surgery over the summer, also missed the game.

Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets out of the gate early with 11 quick points, including several very impressive drives to the lane and a 3-pointer.  Chandler was in attack mode early, aggressively attacking the defense and making plays for himself and others.  The Nuggets defense also looked to be working on a string early, challenging the Clippers offense for much of the first quarter. Joffrey Lauvergne added some much needed offense in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, finishing with 16 points on 7-10 shooting.

The Clippers pulled away late in the 2nd quarter and stretched the lead to 14 at the half behind a Chris Paul 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer. The lead extended to over 20 in the third quarter as the Nuggets offense struggled to score in the half court. In the 4th quarter, behind the stellar play of rookies Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets roared back to cut the lead to just three points with a minute left.  However, a Josh Smith jump hook and a pair of Austin Rivers free throws put the game away.

Emmanuel Mudiay

It was a very challenging debut for Mudiay who was matched up against one of the league's best point guards in Chris Paul.  Paul hounded Mudiay from the opening tip, crowding his space and making it very difficult for Mudiay to dribble.  Mudiay struggled to handle the ball against pressure this summer in the Las Vegas Summer League and he really struggled tonight against Chris Paul.  He had 5 turnovers in the first half alone and the Nuggets even elected to take the ball out of his hands for large stretches, going with a two point guard lineup in which Jameer Nelson would handle the ball.

Mudiay recovered very nicely in the 2nd half and was able to regain his poise and timing, making a handful of those beautiful cross-court passes to open shooters on the opposite side of the court that we saw him make in summer league.  His phenomenal vision and feel for the game shined through some of the early turmoil and, despite an underwhelming overall performance, there were plenty of flashes of brilliance for him to build on in the games going forward.  He also knocked down a trio of three-pointers, helping to fuel the furious 4th quarter comeback.

Joffrey Lauvergne

Joffrey's hustle and footwork on offense helped him score a game-high 16 points and was probably the Nuggets' most effective player on the court.  He did a great job cleaning up the glass, tallying 11 rebounds, including 6 on the offensive end.  His energy and effort wasn't quite as evident or effective on the defensive end and he will have issues against tall, athletic centers like DeAndre Jordan. He also had a pair of goal-tending calls on him that may be the result of his FIBA mind frame, fresh off of his Eurobasket tournament.  Nonetheless, it was an encouraging outing for the frenchmen.

Gary Harris

Harris looked very good, especially on the defensive end, where he grabbed 4 steals.  Harris has such incredibly fast hands and also plays the passing lanes so well.  He only took one shot from beyond the arc on offense but he was very effective getting to the rim and finishing contested shots at the rim.

Nikole Jokic

Jokic also looked very good in stretches and there were several plays where he was able to demonstrate his great vision and soft touch on the pass.  He is already an elite passer from the elbow, especially on backdoor cuts.  His shot also has a soft touch to it, however, his release will need to speed up a bit as he has a tendency to wind up his shot in a way that will prevent him from scoring against quicker defenses.  He did a decent ob of holding his ground against bigger offensive players and overall, it was a very encouraging outing from the rookie.

Erick Green

Despite playing on the bubble as far as roster spot, Green wasn't able to get very many minutes in the game and when he played, he rarely touched the ball on offense. He missed one shot in bizarre fashion, hitting the side of the backboard from the corner.  That, along with a single player foul, was the only stat that Green recorded.

JJ Hickson

Dear god...

The Nuggets return to action on Tuesday night when they head to Dallas to take on the Mavericks.