Coach Michael Malone had been begging for 48 minutes of effort and some defensive heart from the Nuggets, and on Wednesday night they delivered, taking down the Clippers in Los Angeles 87-81 on the second half of a back-to-back. Kenneth Faried was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half, posting 17 points and 8 rebounds in the frame, while Danilo Gallinari fought through his hand injury to keep the Nuggets ahead in the third and Gary Harris came up with key steals and a dagger three in the closing minutes to preserve the win. The Clippers tied the NBA season-high with 46 three-point attempts but could not shoot down the Nuggets in the end.

The Nuggets started off down 9-2 early, as they had some looks but couldn’t convert and rushed into a couple of turnovers, while the Clippers hit early threes and had better ball movement. Emmanuel Mudiay drove, directed the flow and did everything right except for finish – he was a brutal 1-for-12 on the night. The Nuggets hustlied up rebounds, though, and Faried hit a couple of jump hooks to close it to 14-10. Mudiay bricked a 3 but Nikola Jokic hit the next one, and a turnover let to a transition bucket by Harris and the lead at 15-14. Jokic and Harris attached the paint well, but an incredible block by Jeff Green on a Harris breakaway dunk kept the score at 21-19 in Denver’s favor. Denver’s energy remained strong for the whole quarter, however. Joffrey Lauvergne’s dunk made it 16-0 in paint points in favor of Denver to that point. Prigioni bricked a half-court 3 and left Denver with the 23-19 lead after one, outscoring the Clippers 21-8 to end the period.

Jamal Crawford opened the second quarter scoring with a 3, a harbinger of the L.A.’s attack plan the rest of the game. Denver second unit gave up a 10-1 run to start the second with several missed jumpshots and a couple of turnovers thrown in for good measure. Denver’s offense stagnated but the Nuggets kept getting back on defense. Will Barton and Lauvergne had trouble connecting all night, causing ugly turnovers when they went to the paint together, but D.J. Augustin and Lauvergne got it right. The second unit showed the effects of playing most of the fourth quarter against the Kings last night. posting just 8 points in the first 6 minutes until the starters filtered back in. Gallinari’s hand was obviously bothering him as he missed two free throws and struggled from the field for the whole first half. Gary Harris had 17 points for the night to pick up the slack, though, and drained a two to put Denver back up 37-36. Faried then spent the rest of the half reminding everyone that there are times he can be absolutely dominating. He was everywhere in the paint, outscoring L.A.’s starting front-court 17-4 by himself in the first half and throwing down some good defensive plays on top of that pile. Harris hit a 3 and Gallo netted a steal and a dunk off an inbound to cap a 20-3 run and put Denver up 53-39 at the half. Denver out-rebounded the Clippers 35-18 in the first half, and outscored them in the paint 30-8.

Gallinari drove the lane for a bucket to start the third quarter scoring. J.J. Redick's 3 was countered by a pair of Faried dunks that kept the lead at 59-46. Nikola Jokic continued his good play with 11 rebounds on the night and several beautiful passes, but he was obviously winded during several stretches. The Clippers closed to 59-53 after some Redick shots, a Pierce jumper and an alley oop to Jordan forced a 14-4 run. Harris nailed a 3 stopped that run briefly, but an 0-for-8 streak from the field made Denver lean on its defense, and for the first time since the All-Star break it didn't let them down. The two teams traded bricks, and Gallo's emphatic put-back dunk kept the lead at 6. A steal by Arthur led to an angry three from Gallinari, determined to preserve the lead. Barton to Joffrey is just awful. The Nuggets had 40 points in the paint through three quarters and 71-62 lead.

The second unit once again struggled to penetrate early as Denver started off with bricked 3s from their frontcourt. D. J. Augustin hit a 3 to push the lead back to 10, then assisted the other new Nugget JaKarr Sampson, who got his first Nuggets points off a dunk. Starters or bench players, though, the Nuggets kept the pressure on defensively. Denver left its second unit in against L.A.'s starters for a minute or two, another interesting rotation choice by Malone. Augustin was still in with 5 minutes to go as Clippers finally starterd denying entry passes and layups. Denver's hustle on the boards made a difference with all the missed long shots by the Clippers, but when Paul sank a 3 over Lauvergne to close to 80-75 it looked like L.A. might finally have found the range. Ball movement for Denver slipped half-way through the quarter, Redick hit another 3 to close it to 2, and Nuggets looked to be running out of gas. A deep buzzer-beating three from Harris at the two minute mark shattered the Clippers' momentum and made it 85-80. Gallo drew a controversial charge with 30 seconds to go, which led to Mudiay swishing two free throws like he was casually tossing up shots in an empty gym. Denver then defended the three point line tremendously until the final buzzer to put a bow on the game for their coach and won the game 87-81.


Some of the kids are growing up. Mudiay was awful from the field tonight (again) but he didn’t let it affect his defense on Chris Paul, which was good all game. It also didn’t get into his head in orchestrating the offense, as he had his second game in a row without a turnover and logged half a dozen assists. Overcoming adversity is a good thing. After the game, Emmanuel was interviewed and thanked Gary Harris for helping to keep him positive during the brickfest and ready for those crucial final free throws. As Mudiay said after the game, “Every game we’re in it. I think we’re the second-youngest starting unit in the league.” But those young players want to win, and between Jokic’s rebounding and passing, and the steals and shooting of Gary Harris the Nuggets pulled this victory out. Nurkic hasn’t joined the party yet – and in fact was a healthy scratch tonight – but this is how the young Nuggets have to play: take the game to the All-Stars and soak up everything you can from every opponent.

Faried was the Manimal in the first half. Someone needs to make a gif of Faried going Super Saiyan that we can use on days like this, because he's completely unstoppable when he gets this way. For whatever stretch of the game it is, the Nuggets need to just feed him and get out of the way and to their credit they did just that. Kenneth will never be a 35 minute a game guarantee, but his quarter-explosions can win a game outright. After his work was done all Denver had to do was hold the lead, and they managed to do just that. All DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the Clippers could do was watch as Faried wrecked their home court and their streak over the Nuggets.