The Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers started their matchup on Tuesday night with a combination of bad offense and good defense, as the two sides put up a combined 18 points in the first six minutes of the game with the Nuggets lead 10-8 at the halfway mark of the first period. The Nuggets were playing through Nikola Jokic early as he had four points and four assists eight minutes into the game. The only two points he wasn’t responsible for thus far was a pair of free throws by Austin Rivers. With 2:08 remaining in the first, the Nuggets were leading 14-10 in a game that was shaping up to be a tough one for both sides. Coming out of a Denver timeout, the Clippers were looking to take advantage of the non-Jokic minutes for the Nuggets, but the two sides were mostly trading buckets when one side would score before Brandon Boston Jr. hit a pair of free throws to end the quarter with Denver leading 18-16.
The Clippers quickly tied the game at 18 to start the second quarter, and they took the lead with 90 seconds off of the clock in the period for their first lead of the game. The Nuggets tied the game on a Jeff Green layup before a Zeke Nnaji triple gave Denver their lead back. The Clippers were hoping to take advantage of the non-Jokic minutes, but they failed to do so as they were still trailing by four when he re-entered the game midway through the second quarter. Coming out of the timeout, Denver had a pair of turnovers, but the Clippers only scored once which the Nuggets easily matched as they were keeping LA at arm’s length. The Nuggets had stretched their lead to 10 with just over 3:00 remaining in the half as they were looking to finally get some offense rolling. Jokic followed up a Marcus Morris Sr. bucket with a triple from the top of the key to make Denver’s lead 11. Aaron Gordon scored his ninth and 10th points at the line with just over a minute left in the half with Denver maintaining the double-digit edge. They ultimately led 41-28 at the half as they were starting to stretch that lead out on the road.
Following a quick bucket by the Clippers, the Nuggets started sprinting out to a huge lead as they went on an 11-4 run over the first 3:12 of the quarter that had their lead up to 20 points and forced the Clippers to call a timeout to stop the bleeding. Following the timeout, the Clippers took a few minutes but finally went on a run of their own to get within 17 with under 6:00 to play in the third quarter. After trailing by as many as 25, the Clippers had stormed back and were within 13 with 4:04 remaining. With Denver struggling on offense, the Clipper run continued as they were 10-of-16 from the field in the third quarter and within 10 with 2:01 in the quarter. A 3-point play by Terance Mann made it a single-digit deficit for the first time since the second quarter. A pair of free throws from Facundo Campazzo made the score 66-55 to end the quarter, and Denver was hoping to survive this rock fight after they thought they had the game wrapped up.
The Clippers started the fourth quarter right where they left off in the third quarter, and they made it a four-point game less than two minutes into the quarter. Jokic came back into the game with the Nugget lead down to two and every bit of momentum going the way of the Clippers. Gordon hit a big 3-point shot in transition, but Reggie Jackson tied the game at 71 with around seven minutes left in the game after trailing by 25 points in the third quarter. Jackson drilled a triple from the top of the key, and the Clippers were leading 76-75 with 5:30 left in the game. Buckets by Jackson and Jokic made it a one-point game with 4:01 left. Down by one with under three minutes remaining, the Clippers hit back-to-back 3-point shots to take a five-point lead after it looked like they were dead in the water early in the third quarter. The Clippers were leading 87-83 with under a minute remaining. Denver got an easy bucket near the rim to fall before forcing a miss out of the Clippers on the other end. Jokic put up a shot from 3-point range to try and win the game but missed, and an attempt from Gordon that would have tied the game rimmed out as well. This will go down as just one of the many meltdowns suffered by the Nuggets this year, as they’re now 17-7 when leading by double-digits or more in a game this season.
Points: Aaron Gordon - 30
Assists: Nikola Jokic - 8
Rebounds: Jokic - 13
Player of the Game: Aaron Gordon - 30 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 11-of-16 field goal, 1-of-4 3-point, 7-of-7 free throw