The Denver Nuggets faced a road back to back tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers and had to do it with major pieces missing. No Nikola Jokic, no Aaron Gordon and still no Jamal Murray. Meanwhile the Clippers were playing their third game in four nights but were riding high after winning four of their last five games. Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan decided to turn back the clock on their way to huge performances for Denver. That offset a big nights from Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac and the Nuggets shock the world. They go into L.A. down three starters and come out with a 113-104 victory

Denver predictably started slow on offense and mustered only two field goals in the first three minutes of the game. L.A. built a small lead while the Nuggets searched for offense that wasn’t just lobs to Jordan (though that was working). Denver hung tough through the first half of the quarter, Porter knocked down a wide open three to tie it up at thirteen and the Clippers took a timeout. The Nuggets defense was fantastic with the bench coming in. Jordan picked up two fouls and was replaced by Zeke Nnaji which made everything switchable and the Nuggets started wreaking havoc on the defensive end. They took their turns as scorers and kept stride for stride with the Clippers as the quarter winded down. Unfortunately they stumbled right at the end of the first which let the Clippers get a three point lead, 28-25.

The Clippers got the majority of the offense to start the second quarter and went on a mini-run to push the lead to seven. Denver meanwhile stagnated while L.A. got the lead up to eleven but then the Nuggets woke back up. This time it was the Clippers turn to be cold while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jackson led a run to get Denver back within two and force an L.A. timeout. It was vintage RJ in the second quarter. He was the focal point of the Nuggets offense including a flush on a nice Jordan feed. Jackson repaid the favor later with another alley-oop pass to Jordan. If it wasn’t for Leonard, Denver would be running away with the game but instead they clung to a small lead. DeAndre gave Zubac and the Clippers everything they could handle down low as he dominated the glass and pushed people around on offense. RJ & DJ led a magnificent quarter for Denver all things considered and they went to the half leading 58-56.

Denver was cold coming out of the locker room while Leonard was still cooking. No one else had much going for L.A. though so it stayed a close game early in the third quarter. Jackson and Jordan continued to provide offense for Denver while Justin Holiday also got timely baskets. Denver couldn’t string together enough buckets to build a lead though. Zubac had a nice quarter for the Clippers. They’d pull Jordan out of the lane and Zu was left with an open lane to roll into or receive a pass after DJ left for help defense. After a couple easy buckets from him and a James Harden three the Clippers took a seven point lead. Denver’s bench group had less energy than their first shift. They weren’t getting out in transition and found it hard to get baskets. The Clippers were able to grow their lead to double digits by the time the quarter was over and they led 88-77.

The Clippers went cold to start the fourth which let Denver get on a run and get back within four. Another Jackson to Jordan alley-oop completed the comeback and tied the game at ninety with eight minutes to go. That was the go to play of the night for the Nuggets and that was still true in the fourth quarter. Jackson led Denver’s offense and they held a small lead with six minutes to go that he pushed up to five with a high-arching corner three. Denver kept clinging to the lead with the quarter winding down and the Clippers decided to turn to hack-a-Jordan trailing by four. He got the first two free throws but then missed the next pair. L.A. didn’t gain any advantage with that strategy but did force Malone to take Jordan out of the game. That let Denver go to their all switching defense that gave the Clippers trouble earlier and that continued to be the case. Jackson followed with a tough drive to get a layup to push Denver’s lead to six with just over a minute to go. Paul George continued his storied history of clutch shooting against the Nuggets with an airball that got Peyton Watson a fastbreak dunk and the Nuggets were on their way to stealing one. George shot another ball off the side of the backboard and that’s all she wrote. Denver gets a great win, 113-104.

Best Matchup: DeAndre Jordan vs Ivica Zubac

Nov 27, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan (6) moves to the basket against Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) during the first half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Despite there being no Jokic it was still a dominant matchup of bigs tonight. DeAndre turned the clock all the way back to his lob-city Clippers days and finished oop after oop on his way to a big twenty-one point, thirteen rebound double double. Zubac was not to be outdone however. With Jordan as the only Nugget with size in the game Zubac was able to have his way down low often and also got his fair share of rebounds. Zubac vs Jordan was probably on no one’s pregame notes as the big matchup of the game but it was a fun one for sure. Probably won’t see too many more performances from Jordan like that but he’s made a strong case for still receiving playing time after Denver gets healthy.

I’m ready to call it, Reggie Jackson is absolutely your Bruce Brown replacement

When the Bruce Brown got paid by the Pacers the expectation was that Christian Braun would largely fill the role vacated by Denver’s sixth man. Just under a quarter of the way through the season and the guy who is filling that role is absolutely Jackson. He is vital as playmaker for the Nuggets and was flat out unstoppable at times tonight. He also has enough length at the point guard position that he let’s Denver do a lot of the same things they did  on defense when it was Brown at the one. When Murray gets back Jackson will naturally go back to the bench but that playmaking is just what the reserve group needs and he’s absolutely going to be the Nuggets new sixth man moving forward.

Nuggets moneyline…cashes??!!

Alright, when I wrote the preview I didn’t expect the Nuggets to win the game sans Jokic and Gordon but lo and behold here we are. Shoutout to the entire team for stepping up. After going 1-4 on the road and everybody and their golden retriever questioning the Nuggets depth they come out missing three starters and beat a team with playoff aspirations on their own court. Jordan and Jackson were phenomenal, Holiday stepped up big time. Watson, Strawther, Braun, in fact the two guys who struggled the most tonight were Denver’s two other full time starters. Best win of the season hands down and also one of the most fun to watch in a long time.