The Denver Nuggets opened their four game homestand with an afternoon game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The lazy nature of a Sunday afternoon fit the mood of the game which was often times sloppy, overly officiated and quickly became lopsided. Luckily for the Nuggets, it was lopsided in their way. They get big performances from Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic and never really leave the game in doubt. The Nuggets win going away 123-96
The Clippers started out the game struggling to score and Jamal Murray had it going for the Nuggets. Los Angeles mustered just two points in the first four minutes of the quarter whereas Jokic and Murray either scored or assisted twelve of Denver’s to get the Nuggets up by double digits right out of the gate. L.A. calmed down to start stringing together some baskets with Danilo Gallinari leading the way. At the power forward spot his first step gave Denver problems on the defensive end. After he exploited a mismatch with Gary Harris in the post, the Clippers drew within three with three minutes to go. Both teams went to their benches as the quarter closed and they traded baskets until the final minute when Denver got hot from deep to get a seven point advantage.
Nikola Jokic (7 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST), Paul Millsap (6 PTS) and Jamal Murray (6 PTS) led the way for the @nuggets in the opening quarter!— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 24, 2019
They lead 34-27 after 1Q on NBA TV! #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/3csT7G34Bc
The Nuggets opened the second quarter sloppily, not crashing the glass on defense and either turning it over or taking poor shots on offense. Luckily the Clippers bench was unable to take advantage. For the second straight quarter in a row L.A. opened up ice cold. Neither team took advantage of the others poor play early on in the quarter but the Clippers reserves started to find some momentum behind Montrezl Harrell and pushed back within five before their starters came back in. Denver got into some foul trouble to let L.A. tie the game from the line before their own starters righted the ship. Barton and Murray hit back to back threes, the Clippers had a couple poor possessions and just like that Denver went on an 11-0 run. Jokic kept the momentum rolling for Denver but the game ground to a halt as the half was closing with foul call after foul call. The final moments of the half were a comical display of randomness that might be described as basketball and the Nuggets headed to the lockers up 64-56.
Both teams opened up the second half turning the ball over and failing to convert, Millsap finally got a three to get the first basket almost a minute and a half in. Jokic picked up two quick fouls to get into foul trouble and Plumlee had to check in just two minutes into the quarter. The Clippers opened the third straight quarter ice cold from the field. The Nuggets weren’t much better but Plumlee was banking in threes so there was that. Gallinari knocked down a jumper right before the eight minute mark which were the first points of the quarter for L.A. If the Nuggets weren’t also shooting poorly from the field the game would have turned into a laugher but the Nuggets were simply maintaining a lead in the high teens. Millsap was the one consistent force for the Nuggets, he was getting them points and also killing the Clippers on the offensive glass. In the second half of the quarter Lou Williams started to string together some baskets and bring the Clippers back. The Nuggets weren’t doing themselves any favors either with some questionable ball security. The one thing the Clippers still couldn’t turn in their favor was the offensive glass and that alone was keeping them from getting back within striking distance. The Nuggets bench finally got their feet under them and closed out the quarter strong. After three Denver led by twenty.
The fourth started out like every other quarter for the Clippers...whole lotta bricks. The Nuggets were also cold again from the floor which kept L.A. trailing around the twenty point mark. Denver’s starting frontcourt stayed in the game despite the big lead and the Nuggets were able to keep their distance behind them. However, it seemed like everyone was ready to hit the showers about nine minutes early and the energy started to wane. Malone called a timeout when the lead dipped back down to 16 points to get his team re-focused. It took a few possessions but as had been the case so often tonight Millsap provided the spark, he knocked down a three with just under six to play and Doc Rivers emptied his bench to the scorers table. Millsap had a couple more nice plays just to place the emphasis and Malone emptied his bench shortly thereafter. Fan favorite Jarred Vanderbilt found some minutes with Isaiah Thomas in the end of the game but it had degenerated to what you would expect garbage time in a weekend afternoon game to degenerate to. The final horn mercifully sounded with the Nuggets up 123-96.
Best matchup: Paul Millsap vs Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari got his fair share of defending Millsap today and struggled with the task. Millsap was vintage Paul tonight. He consistently was the one giving the Nuggets a spark when they didn’t have one and absolutely demolished the offensive glass. Gallo didn’t have the strength to keep Millsap off the boards which meant despite some cold spells shooting the Nuggets were able to get points because of the multiple opportunities. However, Gallo did his part on the offensive end for L.A. even though his three point shot wasn’t falling. It was a classic mix of awkward drives to the rim for layups, mid range jumpers and of course free throws. No doubt Gallo is still a potent weapon on offense, but tonight’s game really highlighted how his lack of strength can hurt you when he plays the four.
Main thing I noticed: they should ban weekend afternoon games
Yikes this game was a slog to get through. It looked like the Clippers thought the game ended after the first half and were annoyed that there were still 24 minutes to play. The Nuggets pretty much decided the lead was good after three quarters and coasted through the fourth. The energy was very reminiscent of the game between these teams early this season on a Saturday afternoon with that game swinging in the Clippers favor. It’s got to be one of the biggest homecourt advantages in the league, playing a game on your own court when it’s four hours earlier than the usual start time. I get that weekends are prime viewing hours but yikes, I could do without a snooze fest like the game today.