The Denver Nuggets entered tonight’s contest streaking and with the Los Angeles Clippers tired and depleted the table was set for another victory. Denver would not dissapoint the home crowd with Nikola Jokic garnering another triple double, Kenneth Faried making a triumphant return and Will Barton once again getting back to being Will Barton. A solid defensive start and a barrage of scoring gets the Nuggets over the hump easily tonight as they drop the Clippers 129-114.
Both teams missed some easy opportunities early on which kept the score low. The Nuggets focused their efforts on offense down low and all of their first ten points came in the paint as they got out to a slim early lead. It wouldn’t last long as they continued to miss easy shots which let the Clippers keep pace. The game was tied at 11 as the quarter hit the six minute mark. The Nuggets focused on getting the ball to Jokic which helped get them back in the lead and also put the Joker on early triple double watch. Their defense was also solid early on and the Clippers were continuously settling for difficult jump shots. Faried made his return to the lineup after missing nine games while the Nuggets closed the quarter strong on their way to a 27-19 lead after one.
Barton picked up where he left off last game, burying two early threes to get the second quarter scoring started for Denver and Faried followed that up with an alley oop to Mason Plumlee which caused Doc Rivers to call a quick timeout with the Nuggets lead stretching into double digits. The TO didn’t do anything to cool down Barton and Denver’s D was still solid so their lead continued to grow. Despite the solid D, the Clippers did hit some tough shots which kept the Nuggets advantage from growing to twenty. When the starters checked back in for Denver LA responded with some physical play which caught the them off guard, the Clippers worked the lead back under double digits as they went on a mini run. They would cool off as the half drew to a close, meanwhile coach Malone drew up a nice play with 4 seconds left that resulted in a Jameer Nelson three (and Jokic’s 6th assist) and Denver went to the locker room with a thirteen point lead.
The Clippers opened up the second half with three straight three pointers which immediately drew a timeout from coach Malone. Harris responded for Denver to keep LA from regaining the lead which sparked a run for the Nuggets and gave them some breathing room. After what had been a very solid defensive first half, Denver started to look more like the team they have been all season on that end. Jokic pushed closer and closer to a triple double while J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers lit up the three point line. With four minutes left in the third quarter, Nikola hit Faried for an easy bucket to get his fifth triple double of the season which lit a fire under the Nuggets and they proceeded to, as they say, “ball out.” A massive Barton dunk, a vicious Plumlee putback, Jamal Murray doing Jamal Murray things, it was all working for Denver. When the lead got to 19 LA finally started to push back but Murray and Barton would have none of it and the Nuggets would close the third leading by twenty three points.
Coach went with the future lineup early in the fourth quarter (Murray-Harris-Barton-Juancho-Jokic) and they had some mixed results, especially defensively. Once the Clippers pulled the game within fourteen Malone was forced to take a time out and go back to Nelson. The move paid immediate dividends as Nelson drew Paul’s fifth foul, on a three point shot no less, and while the Nuggets defense was getting any stops they did start to go toe for toe on the offensive end. With the Nuggets still leading by fifteen with five minutes remaining time started to become a factor for the Clippers. However, Nelson continued to be the steadying force down the stretch, including a ridiculous three. Despite the Clippers continued scoring the Nuggets wouldn’t be denied and ultimately closed out the win.
Best match up: Back court vs back court
Both the starters and the reserves at the guards had themselves a game on both sides. Every time Denver looked like they were going to put the game out of reach it seemed that either Redick or Rivers or Chris Paul would find themselves wide open for a three or would bury a contested three to just barely keep the Clippers hopes alive. When legs started to get tired though it was the relentless scoring barrage of Harris/Barton/Murray/Nelson that ultimately would put away Clippers. Harris and Barton in particular terrorized LA all night. It’s good to see Barton getting back to his explosive form, if the Nuggets can hold on to the 8th seed a big outing from Barton could easily be the reason why Denver could steal a game or more in the playoffs.
Main thing I noticed: the youth looked good
Even though when Malone went all youth it didn’t go so well, Denver’s young core did look good when they were sprinkled with some veterans. Jokic was of course his usual amazing self but Murray had some big scoring runs and Juancho had a couple nice plays himself. Meanwhile Harris is starting to become a guy who you can count on like a veteran. The future is indeed bright in Denver, even if Emmanuel Mudiay (DNP-CD) doesn’t work out.
Closing thought: A win against the Rockets makes me a believer
I’ve been really hesitant to proclaim the Nuggets a playoff team, and if they do make the playoffs it will be as one of the poorer eight seeds in terms of overall record but they’ve ultimately came out and taken care of business the past couple of weeks and for the first time in the season they are showing some consistency in their play. Hell there’s even been flashes of defense, DEFENSE people! If they can get a win against Houston on Saturday then it will be really hard to pick against them in terms of who’s going to make the playoffs.