Five Takeaways: Foul Trouble Hurts Clippers In Loss To Nuggets
DENVER – Foul trouble hurt an already trailing, shorthanded Clippers team (29-16), and it all went downhill after an early second-half burst against the Nuggets (18-24), as a 24-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter couldn’t be overcome.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ 123-98 loss.
1) Foul trouble – Already playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the last thing the Clippers needed was another player’s minutes to shorten from foul trouble. Unfortunately for them, that was the case for two players. Austin Rivers played just six minutes in the first half, picking up three early fouls, and DeAndre Jordan picked up five fouls and a technical by the end of three quarters.
Rivers’ return in the third quarter helped the Clippers start the second half on an 8-2 run, but they’d already dug themselves a sizable hole, and it all went downhill from there, with the Nuggets scoring 36 points in the quarter to essentially eliminate any chance at a Clippers’ comeback. With the game out of reach, Jordan’s night was done after three quarters. “Once you get 20 down in this building, it’s hard,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “You could see it. We didn’t have it.”
2) Denver’s looks too easy – The Clippers never got enough stops to make a comeback possible Saturday night. The Nuggets shot 53.7 percent in first half, with 28 of their 59 points in paint. Denver finished the night with 58 points in the paint. On the rare misses, too often Kenneth Faried and the Nuggets cleaned it up, as Denver finished with 23 second-chance points. Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Jokic, Will Barton and Wilson Chandler each finished with at least 18 points, as the Nuggets shot 52.9 percent on the night – the highest field goal percentage the Clippers have allowed since the start of 2017.
3) Long twos not falling – J.J. Redick scored seven points in the first few minutes of the game, but that wasn’t a sign of things to come for the Clippers’ attack, as they went scoreless the final four minutes of the first quarter. The loss of Rivers to foul trouble for the majority of the first half meant missing a vital player capable of attacking the rim, as long two after long two fell off the mark.
With Chris Paul sorely missed setting up the offense, far too often, isolations led to long shots that rarely found the net, with the Clippers shooting 35.5 percent in the first half. A lack of hard drives to the rim also meant a lack of foul shots, with the Clippers taking just eight free throws to the Nuggets’ 26.
4) Bench blues – Marreese Speights started the game against a Denver lineup with plenty of size, leaving less firepower off the bench. Jamal Crawford’s shooting slump continued, but it was a struggle for all of the Clippers’ reserves, who combined to go 6-for-26 in the first half and 13-for-46 by game’s end.
Among the starting group, Jordan posted 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting – also adding 13 rebounds and three assists – Speights finished 7-for-10 with 18 points and Rivers added 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting, but the rest of the Clippers went a combined 20-for-64 on the night.
5) Blake boost coming soon – The best news for the Clippers was sitting on the bench all night. Blake Griffin is on the Clippers’ road trip, and while he didn’t play Saturday night, he is expected to play within the next couple games after being out for a month following a Dec. 20 right knee procedure. He’s already going through contact drills, and he said if it were up to him, he’d already be back on the court.
“I would play tonight if they let me,” Griffin said. “For me personally, there’s not a game that I’m targeting. But this trip, this is it.”
What’s Next? – The Clippers continue their five-game road trip Monday in Atlanta.