CLIPPERS EDGE NUGGETS FOR FIFTH IN A ROW |
- ERIC PATTEN @ericpatten
Kenyon Martin made the most of his return to Denver.
Martin, in his first year with the Clippers after spending seven in the Mile High city, put away his former team with a tip in and a blocked shot on consecutive possessions in the final 30 seconds of the Clippers' 104-98 comeback victory Wednesday at Pepsi Center.
"K-Mart has been huge for us because I think he brings an intensity to the game that you have no choice but to match," Chris Paul said on NBA TV after the game. "He had the two biggest plays of the game: that tip in and then he block Ty Lawson's shot on the other end."
The Clippers rallied back from a 12-point first-quarter deficit as the reserve unit put together a 12-2 run to open the second quarter.
They finished with 41 points off the bench.
Difference Maker: With the game tied at 98, Paul dribbled the clock to around 30 seconds before firing a contested jumper from the left wing. The shot caromed off the rim, but Martin out jumped Kenneth Faried from the weak side and tipped the miss in with his right hand.
After a Nuggets timeout, Andre Miller lofted an alley oop attempt to diminutive guard Ty Lawson, but Lawson bobbled the ball, landed, and as he tried to lay it up on the opposite side of the rim, Martin flew in from behind and rejected it off the backboard.
Turning Point: After two Faried free throws cut the Clipper lead to three, they worked through a somewhat disjointed possession as the 24-second clock wound down. Paul, who looked markedly fatigued, mishandled the ball and as it rolled toward the sideline, Mo Williams snagged it and launched a 33-foot 3-pointer that bailed the Clippers out and put them up 95-89. It was Williams' fourth three of the game and as he skipped back to the defensive end he and head coach Vinny Del Negro slapped hands.
Stat Line of the Night: Williams. Partnering Williams and Young with Paul, Martin, and Blake Griffin, was the lineup down the stretch the last two games, and while it was Young Monday who got hot in the fourth quarter, this time it was Williams. He scored seven of the final 11 points, including a perfectly executed 3-pointer from the left corner off a feed from Griffin. Williams finished with 19 points, four assists and three rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench.
Griffin. Relegated to the bench with four fouls for much of the third quarter and held without a field goal in the first, Griffin scored just 12 points, but he also grabbed seven rebounds, dished out five assists, and threw down four dunks.
Lawson. He led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He also had six assists and set the tone for Denver's racecar-like pace.
Faried. The rookie who's nicknamed "The Manimal" played big down the stretch for the Nuggets, making a pair of free throws in the final minutes and contesting everything around the rim. He finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
Hot: The Clippers from 3-point range. There's something about the mountain air for the Clippers. They shot 14-for-24 from distance (58.3%), matching their season high in makes, set in their four-point win at Denver on Jan. 29. Caron Butler made 4-of-5, including three in the first quarter, Williams was 4-for-7, and Nick Young shot 3-for-4 to lead the way.
Not: Danilo Gallinari. At one point early in the season, Gallinari looked like Denver's best player. But after injuries to his ankle and thumb, Gallinari's season has been somewhat derailed. On Wednesday he went 0-for-7 from the field, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range, mustering just four points on four free-throw attempts.
On the second half:
Blake Griffin: "Defensively we just played better and a lot of guys just stepped up and made shots. We switched up some things. But for the most part it was about our energy and our effort."
On the bench:
Mo Williams: "We've got the opportunity to play together and get steady minutes together. Everybody brings their own strength. I think we kind of just throw it in a bucket and mix it up."
On 3-point shooting by Clippers:
George Karl: "The nature of the game is big guys have a tendency of running back to the tip of the rim and not to the three-point line and when Ty [Lawson] is knocked on his butt under the basket, a guy like Chris Paul figures out where the other guard is and finds the open shooter."
On Kenyon Martin:
On whether or not the Clippers would have won this game earlier in the year:
Paul: "We might not have. We've had ups and downs throughout this whole season. Throughout the game you realize that when it gets down to those last possessions, whatever else happens throughout the game doesn't matter. I think we are starting to understand that. It's all about the next play and we have been in that situation a number of times where we pretty much know what we want to do."
On getting booed by the Denver crowd in his first game back:
Kenyon Martin: "It's cool. It's whatever. It's about winning and nothing else. [Denver fans] are cheering for their team which I expect them to do. I had a good seven years here and they cheered for me every time I was here so I expect them [ to cheer for Denver]."
Notes: The loss drops the Nuggets to 34-28, seventh in the West...The Clippers are 13-0 when Griffin records five or more assis... Butler, Young, Williams, and Randy Foye combined to go 7-of-9 from 3-point range to start the game. The Clippers made just three baskets from 2-point range in the first quarter...L.A. committed an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers, including four by Griffin… The Nuggets outscored the Clippers, 58-28, in the paint.
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