Game #51 | February 3, 2014
Pepsi Center | Denver, CO
DENVER – Out of thin air, the Clippers chances of leaving Denver with a victory were snatched away.
Six seconds after Matt Barnes converted his biggest 3-pointer of the season to give the Clippers a two-point lead, former Clipper Randy Foye heaved in a 28-foot bomb at the buzzer to hand the Clippers a heartbreaking, 116-115, defeat Saturday at Pepsi Center.
With the Clippers down by one, and their possession looking as though it was headed nowhere, J.J. Redick kicked out to Barnes on the right wing. Barnes stepped in and launched the go-ahead shot from distance with 6.2 seconds remaining.
But Foye’s off-balance shot came on a broken play as he came behind J.J. Hickson standing at the 3-point line and received a pass that led him on a full sprint to the center of the floor. Griffin switched off of Hickson to contest his former teammate’s jumper as Foye slid to the floor.
The play spoiled the Clippers (34-17) chance to move within a half game of the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 3 in the Western Conference after Portland (34-14)lost in Washington earlier in the night. And it cost them a chance to win in the Mile High City for the first time in two years.
“We were right there,” said Jamal Crawford, who scored 19 points with five assists off the bench. “Matt hits a huge shot at the end. Obviously, [a 3-pointer] is the only thing that could beat us and [Foye] hit a tough shot.”
DeAndre Jordan had 19 points and 12 rebounds, setting a new L.A. Clippers record with 10 or more rebounds in 28 consecutive games. Barnes had 10 points, including two 3-pointers, and five assists. And Griffin finished with a game-high 36 points with 11 rebounds and four assists.
But Griffin’s dominant offensive game, that included a season-high 22 first-half points, was not on his mind postgame. He lamented missing one of two free throws with 1:10 to go that could have put the Clippers up by two and he blamed himself for Foye’s final shot.
“We blew the play up,” Griffin said. “I switched out. I contested. I didn’t want to get too close because I obviously didn’t want to foul a guy shooting a fade away from that far away. I guess it’s on me. I’ve got to deter that shot a little bit better.”
As much as the last six seconds determined the outcome, the game may have been decided much earlier. The Clippers had a 13-point second-quarter lead that was wiped away by halftime, thanks to Denver closing the first half by outscoring the Clippers 33-20. In the fourth, the Clippers built a 107-101 lead that was whisked away by eight consecutive points by the Nuggets, including six free throws.
Denver scored 10 of its final 15 points from the foul line and went 31-for-44 from there for the game. But they also earned eight points by rebounding their own free throw misses and had a 24-8 advantage in second-chance points.
“That’s the game to me,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “Obviously, I think we always focus on the final shot, but we gave up eight points in the first half off of free throws where they missed a shot, got it back and scored. That’s where the game is lost to me.”
Kenneth Faried had two of the aforementioned put backs. He finished with a career-high 28 points to go with 11 rebounds. Hickson had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Still, through the altitude and unquestioned fatigue, Griffin carried the Clippers in the first quarter. He scored 10 of their first 14 points, finished with 15 in the quarter, and grabbed six of their 10 rebounds. For good measure, he also threw a lob to Jordan.
The Clippers created some distance in the second quarter, scoring 11 consecutive points with four second-unit players on the floor. But Denver’s extended run to close the half was compounded by Griffin picking up his third foul with 1:38 remaining. The Nuggets scored 10 of the final 12 points, including Ty Lawson jumper to tie it at 60.
“I think we gave up too many easy baskets,” Griffin said. “To be 60-all at the half and there was a time when we had a [13-point] lead in the second quarter or whatever it was. And we can’t let that lead go, especially on the road. We’ve got to have a better sense of urgency.”
Despite missing nine free throws, allowing 19 points off a paltry 11 turnovers and shooting just 6-for-21 from 3-point range, the Clippers hung around in a second half that Denver seemed to have control of throughout. But every time the Nuggets made a potentially momentous play in the fourth quarter, the Clippers answered. A Faried put back was countered a possession later when Jordan stole an entry pass and found Griffin with a long outlet pass for a breakaway dunk. A pair of Lawson free throws led quickly to Griffin’s second lob to Jordan of the quarter.
Yet even after Griffin finished off a fast-break dunk on a gorgeous half-court pass from Crawford, the Clippers could not keep Denver off the foul line. And Foye’s shot buried them.
“It’s easy to play the ‘what if’ game,” Rivers said. “Listen, when you give up all of those rebounds and make it a close game anything can happen and tonight something happened.”
Griffin has scored 22 points or more in a half eight times in his career. His career high is 28… The Nuggets held a 52-37 rebounding edge… Darren Collison had nine points, six assists and four steals. It is only the third time since Jan. 1 he’s failed to reach double-digit scoring… Crawford took just eight shots in 29:59… Newly signed Sasha Vujacic was active, but did not play… The Clippers’ bench outscored Denver’s second-leading scoring bench, 32-16…
Clippers forward Matt Barnes on his go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds to go:
“You’ve got to be ready. The initial two options weren’t there. J.J. [Redick] made the pass and I knocked down the shot.”
Clippers forward Blake Griffin on areas that cost the Clippers’ the game:
“Offensive rebounds were huge. The turnovers down the stretch were big. I’ve got to shoot better from the free throw line. All of those things.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on Randy Foye’s final shot:
“We should’ve switched up. But we still got the switch, which was good. I mean, they were trying to go quick. We blew the play up. But give Foye credit. He didn’t stop. He came and got the ball.”
Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw on his overall impressions of the game:
“It was nice to finally get a break to go our way. Our guys really, really fought the entire night. Obviously we overcame a great game from Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford coming off the bench.”
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford on the emotional swing in the final seconds:
“To go from that emotion to the other side is a tough pill to swallow.”
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- Clippers vs. Nuggets: First halfThe Clippers and Nuggets are all knotted up at 60 apiece at the break.
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By: Eric Patten | Follow @EricPatten
The Clippers visit Denver for the first time this season on Monday. They arrived in the Mile High City just minutes before the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLVIII and watched the Broncos take on the Seahawks in a private room at the team hotel. It is the Clippers’ ninth road game in the 17 days and 11th game in that span overall. After taking on the Nuggets (22-23), the Clippers (34-16) will only play 11 more road games this season outside of California, including a return to Denver on Mar. 17.
The Clippers enter the game winners of five of their last six games, including three out of four on the road. The Nuggets are 0-2 at home since knocking off Indiana eight days ago and have lost three of their last four at Pepsi Center (all to Eastern Conference opponents). It is the second meeting of the year between the Nuggets and Clippers. The Clippers won by 21 on Dec. 21 in L.A.
J.J. Redick VS. Randy Foye
- DeAndre Jordan can become the first Clippers player since the team moved to Los Angeles to record 10 or more rebounds in 28 consecutive games. He’s done that five times in his career against the Nuggets, including grabbing a dozen on Dec. 21.
- As much as the Clippers and Nuggets may want to play up tempo, it may be a significant challenge. Both teams are among the top 10 in transition defense, including the Clippers giving up just 10.4 points per game on the break (second in the NBA).
- A win by the Clippers will allow them to keep pace with the 2012-13 team for the best record to start a season in franchise history (35-16).
- The Nuggets are 70-27 in the regular season in the Mile High City since 2011-12. It’s the sixth best home record in the NBA in that span, but they are just 12-11 this season. In the previous two years, the Clippers went 2-2 in Denver (2-0 in 2011-12 and 0-2 in 2012-13).
- Denver has second highest scoring bench in the NBA (40.9 points per game) and the best rebounding bench. Their best game of the season came two months ago against Toronto when they outscored the Raptors bench, 72-16. Their depth has been depleted somewhat of late, however. Nate Robinson is lost for the season with a torn ACL, Andre Miller is not with the team due to personal reasons, and Darrell Arthur has been in and out of the lineup. And while the Nuggets bench has outscored their opponents in 34 of their first 45 games, they will have to contend with the league’s individual bench player in Jamal Crawford. In 10 games since Jan. 17 Crawford has averaged 23.5 points per game and shot 46.5 percent from the field.
- Kenneth Faried, who’s averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, injured his ankle in the first quarter in the previous meeting with the Clippers, and Denver needs Faried to have success against the Clippers. Since Faried’s rookie year, the Nuggets have gone 3-5 versus the Clippers. However, they are 2-0 when Faried has a double-double.
The Clippers’ 21-point victory over the Nuggets on Dec. 21 matched the largest defeat of the season by a Denver opponent… Denver is 3-15 when scoring fewer than 100 points… J.J. Hickson has double-doubles in 12 of his last 23 games, while Jordan has nine in his last 14… The Clippers are just 2-11 in Denver since 2006-07…
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Doc Rivers: “Yeah, it’s hard. What is it 10 games in 15 days? It’s just hard. And we have two more. I just tell them we’re not doing anything tomorrow, light shoot around in Denver, and we just got to get through it. I’m proud of our guys. Overall we’ve held together pretty good in this.”
Blake Griffin: “We’ve got to find a way to push through it, because Denver is not going to be any easier.”
LAC: Chris Paul (shoulder) remains out.
DEN: Ty Lawson (shoulder) is a game-time decision, but according to the Nuggets official twitter account, Lawson “hopes” to play Monday. Darrell Arthur (hip) is probable. Nate Robinson (knee), Danilo Galinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (leg) are out. Andre Miller (personal) is not with the team.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES HISTORY
All-Time: 69-85 (Home: 50-26, Road: 19-59)
Road Streak: Lost 2
Largest Margin of Victory:
Dec. 21, 2013 at Staples Center: Clippers 112, Nuggets 91
LAST TIME OUT