The Nuggets weren’t able to take care of the ball against the Clippers in Los Angeles, and they lost 109-104 to drop a game against a potential playoff team.
The Nuggets had ten turnovers in the fourth quarter, dooming themselves to a loss on the second night of a back-to-back. Mason Plumlee had 16 points and 14 rebounds, but he and Jokic each had four turnovers in another rough night for the double-center starting lineup.
Jamal Murray missed the first game of his career after suffering a concussion against the Mavericks.
Michael Malone went with a lineup of Will Barton, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee to start the game, and Plumlee had a green light. He accounted for half of the Nuggets first six field goals, with Barton and Chandler struggling to score, going two for nine in the first quarter.
Malik Beasley got minutes in the first quarter, and had a few great plays on defense. He had back-to-back steals, finishing with a layup after the second possession. The first (and only) Nuggets 3-point make of the quarter came courtesy of Emmanuel Mudiay, who played eight minutes in the first half.
The Clippers lead by two at the end of the first quarter, but the Nuggets bench rotation of Mudiay, Beasley, Jefferson, Lyles and Faried was able to get buckets on offense. Lyles had a nice drive, and a nifty reverse, while Mudiay had a nice drop-off to Faried who jammed home a two-hand dunk in traffic. Mudiay and Faried made some defensive mistakes, but their fresh legs certainly helped on that play.
The Clippers were incredibly sloppy in the first half, with thirteen turnovers leading to 23 points for Denver. At times, the Clippers guards were just straight up throwing the ball to Nuggets defenders, without them even having to move. That helped Denver’s offense get into transition, and they took a 59-50 lead into halftime.
The Nuggets decided to take a few minutes off in the third quarter, struggling to find success with the starting lineup this time around. The Nuggets started turning the ball over, with six in the quarter to help the Clippers get back in the game. LA had a 16-2 run, and before we knew it, they had regained the lead.
The Nuggets had a run of their own, scoring 11 straight points behind some buckets from Barton and Lyles. They had 54 points in the paint after three quarters, with the Clippers sorely missing DeAndre Jordan. Willie Reed picked up his fifth foul, but that meant Montrezl Harrell was able to check in and affect the game with his energetic play and post scoring. Will Barton had a nice block in transition, and Mudiay gave Denver a one point lead, 81-80, going into the fourth.
The Clippers guards began picking up the Nuggets guards full court, and it threw off their groove a little bit. The teams were scoring back and forth, mixing in turnovers in between their makes. Barton hit his first 3-pointer of the game on a deep shot from the wing, and set the table for a tight finish.
Teodosic was able to draw a foul against his countryman, Jokic, and knocked down both of his free throws to give the Clippers a two point with just under five minutes remaining. He hit a pullup 3-pointer on the next possession, and the Clippers called a timeout to set up for the final four minutes.
The Nuggets decided to start hacking Harrell, a career 60 percent free throw shooter, with three minutes left. Harrell made 3 of 4 free throws in the hack-a-thon, and followed up his second pair of free throws with a block on Mason Plumlee. Wesley Johnson followed the block with a 3-pointer from the right corner to make it a seven point game.
The Nuggets were able to knock down their free throws down the stretch, and after a silly foul by Teodosic, the Nuggets were within two points with 16 seconds remaining. Blake Griffin missed both his free throws after a Clippers timeout, and set the table for the Nuggets to get the final shot. Will Barton missed a runner with a few seconds left, and the Clippers made their free throws to give them a five point win.