DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers enjoyed a bountiful Easter against the Denver Nuggets. Jordan filled up the stat sheet on the way to a Clippers win as the Denver floundered in the second half of their two game visit to the City of Angels. The starting unit for the Nuggets was flat the entire game and despite solid efforts from Jusuf Nurkic and D.J. Augustin, Denver wound up on the wrong side of the score column as the Clippers earned the victory 105-90.
The Clippers opened the game with a three pointer from Paul Pierce which was the beginning of a 9-0 run for LA. After a timeout the defense tightened up but it wouldn't be until nearly four minutes had passed before Emmanuel Mudiay finally sunk Denver's first basket. The Nuggets started to find their scoring touch but the Clippers kept pace, largely on the backs of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, and they maintained a nine point lead as the quarter passed the midway point. The Nuggets continued to struggle to score on the offensive end as the benches started checking in but they closed out the quarter strong to reduce LA's lead to five.
The bench picked up where they left off to start the second quarter with a 4-0 mini run to cut the Clippers lead to just one. Joffrey Lauvergne found success as the Clippers didn't have the size to combat both him and Nurkic being on the floor at the same time. However, the reserves were unable to gain the lead and the Clippers responded once their starters started checking back in. Jordan was an imposing force on defense as well as dominating the glass and that, along with a friendly home whistle, kept Denver from getting baskets inside or getting to the foul line. The Nuggets ran with the starters plus Augustin (who was scoring at will) to close out the quarter and they benefited from some cold shooting by the Clippers to end the half (as well as a nice block from Mudiay) which left LA clinging to a four point lead.
Via the Denver Nuggets
The second half started much like the first with the Nuggets unable to get a shot to fall. Jordan continued to be a force on the offensive glass and as a rim protector and was definitely the best Clipper on the court. The energy started to wane for Denver and the Clippers used the third quarter to take control of the game. The Nuggets fear of getting their shot blocked was very prevalent in the third quarter and when the bench came back in the Clippers had their lead up to double digits. At the end of the quarter Denver's play got sloppy and the game was full out the DeAndre Jordan show which allowed LA to take a seventeen point lead.
Via The Cauldron
The fourth quarter opened with the Nuggets in their full bench line up, perhaps in an effort to recapture the magic they had against the Lakers, but the Clippers were just out playing Denver in all facets of the game. Lauvergne was one of the few bright spots of the night and he continued to put forth effort on offense even though the game was quickly turning into garbage time. Unfortunately, the Nuggets couldn't keep from fouling the Clippers and they were never able to get back within striking distance. The reserves would close out the game and despite some solid play from Nurkic, the Clippers bench was able to seal the deal.
Box score via ESPN.com
Best match up: DeAndre Jordan vs the Adriatic Arsenal
This one gets the best match up based solely on Jordan's superior play. It didn't matter if it was Nurkic or Jokic on him, Jordan dominated all aspects of the game. He absolutely beasted on the offensive glass and his imposing presence in the paint altered countless shots the Nuggets tried to get up. Neither Denver center was able to produce much against him and they also didn't take advantage of the opportunities they had when Jordan was off of the floor until late in the game when Nurkic started to find some success.
Key thing I noticed: Yikes...that was some bad shooting
How the Nuggets managed to score as many points as they did I'll never know. Outside of Augustin there was little to no shooting on Denver's end. Mudiay and Darrell Arthur in particular really struggled scoring but Jokic, Gary Harris and Jakarr Sampson weren't much better as the team overall shot under 40%. The early afternoon game after a weekend in LA likely had an effect on this. Compounding the poor shooting was Denver's inability to attack the basket and score inside. The team was clearly timid and concerned about getting their shot blocked and after the first half they weren't able to get their outside shot going either. Ally Sturm of Altitude noted in the second half that coach Malone told the team to stop worrying about their mistakes and just play hard and I'd have to guess that the fear of Jordan was what he was getting at.
Closing thought: Starters need to step it up
If not for the bench the Nuggets would have left LA with no wins. After a lackluster performance against the Lakers where the bench bailed them out the starters were a no show again today. In fact, for the second straight game the starting unit was outscored by the bench. Harris had a nice start to the game but after that he trailed off. Mudiay in particular seems to be struggling as of late and perhaps its just a fact of the matter that he's never came close to playing this many games in such a short span and thats finally starting to take its toll. Still, the schedule is what it is and the starters need to put together better performances than they have lately if this team is going to be successful in the future.