Game #20
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
February 2, 2012 | 7:30PM (PST)
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TEAM 1 2 3 4 FINAL
19 35 32 26 112
32 19 16 24 91
    Eric Patten - (@ericpatten)
    LOS ANGELES–It’s become fairly routine. The Clippers race out to a high-scoring first quarter only to squander the fast start over the next 12 minutes.

    - By Talyssa Gonzales
    In a bit of a Twilight Zone moment, tonight’s match between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets was quite a benchmark for not one, but two players on the court. To date, Clippers guard Chauncey Billups and Nuggets guard Andre Miller had each played 999 games in their NBA careers, and tonight marked game number 1,000 for both players.

    Before tonight, there were only 98 players in NBA history to hit the 1,000-game milestone. Billups and Miller also tied for 12th place on the elite list of 39 players who have played 1,000 games and maintained a career scoring average of 15.0 points or more, Billups with 15.5 points and Miller with 14.3 points.

    In another measure of symmetry, they both finished with eight points on the night.

    Billups is currently in the middle of his 15th NBA season, and finds himself at the heart of one of the most exciting Clipper seasons since moving to Los Angeles in 1984. He was drafted third overall by the Celtics in 1997 and has played for seven teams, including his hometown Nuggets on two occasions.

    “It’s humbling,” Billups said. “I never thought I would get to this level at this point.”

    Although he entered the NBA two seasons before Miller, Billups’s rookie year stats are eerily similar, in fact almost identical, to Miller’s with 11.2 points in 24.5 minutes with Boston. Miller totaled 11.1 points per game in 25.5 minutes as an All-Rookie First Team selection his first season with Cleveland in 1999.

    “Andre, I think of all these players, he’s done it in the fastest amount of time,” said Nuggets head coach George Karl about Miller reaching the 1,000 game mark. “It’s amazing that his body is that durable and that he plays no matter what leg hurts or whatever injury he has.

    “He’s one of the smartest players in the league,” Karl added. “A lot of times he makes the defensive adjustments before I even say anything. It’s fun to have him on the team.”

    Now that Miller and Billups have 1,000 games under their belts it is only a matter time before they may reach different career milestones.

    “I’ve been blessed to play this long.” Billups said. “It’s about working hard and believing I could be a better player.”

    More: Billups moves into fourth place on career 3-point list

    Thursday’s matchup with the Denver Nuggets played out much the same way as L.A. grabbed a 13-point lead after one, but surrendered it on a series of transition baskets from Denver and 3-pointers from Danilo Gallinari.

    This time there was no energetic spurt to open the second half and no fourth quarter fireworks from Chris Paul or Blake Griffin. The Nuggets were simply too much for the Clippers in the final 36 minutes and they cruised to a 112-91 win at Staples Center, ending the Clippers’ four-game winning streak and avenging a four-point loss in Denver earlier this week.

    It was the fourth game in five nights for L.A. (13-7) and for a lengthy stretch between the second and third quarters it showed. They struggled from the field, were slow on their defensive rotations in the half court and offered little resistance to the Nuggets’ up-tempo offense, allowing 18 fast break points and 12-of-21 (57.1%) shooting from 3-point range.

    “We played hard for about a period and a half and then the floodgates opened up,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We didn’t do a very good job executing offensively, we turned it over a little bit, and when they got up the court we were chasing them.” Power forward Blake Griffin, who along with Paul was named to the Western Conference All-Star team earlier in the day, finished with a team-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting in 32 minutes. Denver led 86-67 when Griffin left the game at the end of the third quarter. He did not return.

    Paul chipped in 15 points with nine assists, while Randy Foye had 17 and DeAndre Jordan, playing with a long black sleeve on his slightly hyper-extended left knee, added nine rebounds and five blocked shots.

    But the Clippers were outrebounded by 13 and shot just 5-of-12 from the free throw line as compared to 22-of-25 for the Nuggets (15-7).

    L.A. jumped out to a 32-19 lead after one quarter, thanks in large part to shooting 60.9% from the field. Griffin scored eight of his 16 first-half points, Paul had seven points and four assists, and the team made 4 of its first 7 3-point attempts.

    “That’s been a theme for us this season so far. We get off to really good starts and our second quarters haven’t been the best,” Paul said. “We’re still a work in progress.”

    In the second, Denver slowly turned things around with shots from outside by Gallinari and dunks and layups in transition from Nene, Ty Lawson (18 points), and Andre Miller. After Caron Butler, returning from a one-game absence with a stiff lower back, missed a reverse layup, Lawson finished off a fast break to tie it at 47. Nene got a fast break dunk on the next play off a long rebound to put Denver up by two and they virtually controlled the game from that moment forward.

    “My confidence is up,” said Gallinari, who scored a game-high 21 points and was 5-for-5 from 3-point range. “Coach [George Karl] had confidence in me and put the ball in my hands a lot, so I am just trying to be aggressive and make plays.”

    The Nuggets, who led by three at halftime, opened the third quarter with 14 points on their first seven possessions and the Clippers could not overcome the deficit.

    “I think we were tired,” Griffin said. “We were definitely tired. It’s tough but that’s no excuse.”


    Chauncey Billups and Miller played in their 1,000th career game and finished with eight points apiece. One hundred players in league history have reached the milestone… It was the ninth time in their last 16 games that L.A. has topped 29 points in the first quarter… The Clippers lost for only the third time in 13 home games … Prior to the game Karl offered high praise for the Clippers. “They’ve become a team that was wobbly in close games last year to now, I kind of like Chris Paul and Chauncey as their closers as much as I like Kobe as the Laker closer.”

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