Embed from Getty Images

Nuggets build early lead, then stomp on the chest of the Clippers holding them under the century mark winning 101-94.

The Nuggets came out of the blocks firing. Building a 20-9 lead with 6 mins. to go in the first. This done on the back of 10 pts. from Will Barton, and 5-a-piece for Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. There would be a bit of a back and forth for the next 4 minutes having Denver build as big as a 13-point lead, then L.A. shrinks it to as little as 9. Only to settle on that 11-point difference at 31-20 by the end of one.

In the first quarter, you got to see all that Aaron Gordon brings to this team. He guarded every Clipper player from the 2-5, he flushed dunks, splashed a three, dished 3 assists, and added on a steal to top it all off. He both lead offensive breaks, as well as breaking up the Clippers’ own breaks with great hustle on defense. Those 10 by Barton would be a team-high for the quarter, but 6 Nuggets scoring at least 1 bucket, and the team shooting 56% from the floor offset the 4 total points they got from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined.

This is why Jokic is the MVP. Courtesy of the Denver Nuggets Social Team:

The second quarter saw the Clippers get testy as the Nuggets lead grew to as much as 17 points. Jokic would continue his cold night in scoring with only 4 points in the first half. He still chipped in 5 rebounds and 4 assists, still putting him in range for a triple-double. You also had the Nuggets bench outscored 13-9. But you can sustain a large lead though when you have 4 out of 5 Denver starters in double digits and play defense to the tune of Paul George having a team-high 10 points and the Clippers shooting a 37.8% from the field.

This was a complete flip from Tuesday’s game against Philly that saw the Nuggets run out to a big lead in the 4th, slow down in the 2nd, crack in the 3rd, and then almost completely cave in during the 4th. This time Denver was able to keep up the energy through the entire first half building a 62-49 lead. The perceived lack of foul calls and this Nuggets tempo must have got to the Clippers as Marcus Morris picked up a technical when an audible “this is bull—-” was picked up by the field mics on the floor that was directed at officials after a circus act of a lay-up by Murray late in the half. This to go with their 9 personal fouls, and 4 TO’s.

This is why I say forget the stat-line, courtesy of the Denver Nuggets Social Team.

I know there will be those that talk about “wait until Patrick Beverly and Serge Ibaka get back.” These tired excuses are getting old when it comes to people trying to dismiss this Denver squad. It was nice to hear some on a national broadcast actually give Joker his due on camera. But every time it was countered by “but don’t forget (insert name from a major market team here)” by some biased “analyst”.

That could do nothing to damper the product on the floor though. Especially on the Nuggets side, by the end of 3 quarters they had made 10 threes, shot 49.2% from the floor, including 50% from distance. They also had 4 starters with at least 14 points (Gordon 14, MPJ 16, Murray 15, 16 Barton). While L.A. had only 2 starters in double digits (Leonard 20, George 12) with Terance Mann pitching in 10 off the bench. L.A.’s foul trouble continued with 4, but was able to close the lead a little as Denver committed 6 of their own. And the Clipper bench continued outscoring the Nuggets’ 19-11. This all got them back to the same deficit after the first of 11 at 81-70 by the time the 3rd was over.

Embed from Getty Images

The 4th quarter saw Jokic on the bench with 3 fouls and the Nuggets go completely flat. That lack of bench production from the road team started to take its toll on that double digit lead. The Nuggets only had 4 turnovers in the first half. With half the fourth to go, Denver had committed 9. This allowed L.A. to close to within 1 at 84-83 with 6:30 left on the clock. Jokic had returned a few minutes before this and the difference was palpable. Forget the still respectable 14 pts./7 rebs./7 assist stat-line (with yet another 0-0 in the FT stat column). There were no gaudy stat-lines by a single Nuggets player, but all 5 starters scored at least 14 pts. Everyone ate because the Nuggets had 28 assists on 39 made shots. And even though he wasn’t putting up huge stats, Jokic stayed involved and made sure his teammates did the same.

The Clippers continued to battle, but the new-look Nuggets were just too much. L.A. never lead, that 84-83 score was the closest you can get, but nonetheless, facts are facts. Leonard put up a double-double with 24 pts/12 rebs., George had 17 pts./8 rebs., and Mann had himself a night with 18 pts./6 rebs. No other Clipper had more than 8 pts (Morris/Zubac) and 5 rebs. (Nicolas Batum). An early hole and consistent defensive effort by Denver were too much for L.A. to overcome.

This win by the Nuggets put them in a virtual tie with both L.A. squads for 3rd place in the West. The Clippers still hold a 1-game lead with 2 more wins, but all 3 squads have 18 losses. If Denver can continue to play defense as they have for the last week. The 3 squads ahead of them better get worried, in fact, the league should take notice after a prime-time win against this stacked and mostly healthy Clippers team. Not the backhanded compliments NBA on TNT’s team struggled to give. This Denver squad is now on a 4-game win streak after an 11-3 March. Next we get to see Aaron Gordon against his old team for the first time.

Up Next:

Vs Orlando Magic Sunday, April 4 at 8:00 PM MST

Where to watch:

Denver Market: Altitude TV

Orlando Market: Fox Sports Florida

National Broadcast: NBATV