Five Takeaways: Short-handed Clippers overrun by streaking Nuggets
The Clippers (40-29) dropped their third straight on Thursday falling 129-114 to the Denver Nuggets (33-35) on Thursday at the Pepsi Center.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ defeat.
Clippers' three-point defending remains an issue – Chris Paul told reporters after the Clippers’ loss to Milwaukee that his team’s inability to stop the three ball was becoming a concern down the stretch and on Thursday, Denver validated those worries. In the second half, the Clippers appeared too slow on their defensive rotation as the Nuggets found open looks from long range to pad their lead and keep Los Angeles at arm's length. Clipper-killer Will Barton was the prime recipient of these defensive miscues as he led the Nuggets with a career-high 35 points including shooting seven for 10 from beyond the arc.
Nuggets bigs help Denver dominate in the paint – The Nuggets had their way with the Clippers in the paint with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan resting in Los Angeles. Without their star backcourt duo, the Clippers found themselves unable to stop a significantly larger Denver team that racked up 34 points in the paint in the first half. As the Nuggets pulled away from the undermanned Clippers, their dominance continued with Nikola Jokic notching his fifth triple-double (17 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) of the season. Denver ended the night outpacing the Clippers in the paint scoring 58 points to only 36 from Los Angeles.
Third quarter collapses continue – The Clippers are developing a worrying trend in the third quarter after conceding 40-plus points for the second time this week. After conceding 40 to the Jazz on Monday, the Nuggets put 44 points on the Clippers in a monster third quarter that created a deficit that Doc Rivers’ team was unable to overcome. Rivers has challenged his squad to become more consistent on the defensive side of the ball, and they'll need to heed his advice if they're to change course in the future.
Clippers are hearing footsteps from down the standings – The Clippers' third straight defeat has Los Angeles going in the wrong direction in the Western Conference standings. After losing their third straight for the first time since the All-Star break, the Clippers are now three games behind the fourth-seeded Jazz in the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The most concerning thing for the Clippers, however, is that as they slide, the teams behind them are hitting their stride. Currently, the Oklahoma City Thunder sit just a half game behind Los Angeles, while the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzles are only one game back of the Clippers.
JJ Reddick fills the scoring void for the Clippers in Denver defeat – The only silver lining for the short-handed Clippers in their loss to the Nuggets was the play of J.J. Reddick. Reddick helped keep the Clippers competitive by shooting 8 of 10 from the field, scoring 22 points including four three-pointers in 25 minutes of action. As the Clippers turn the page to their game with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday and look to stop their slide down the standings, Doc Rivers can use more production from his premier shooter.
What’s Next? - The Clippers head back on the home to face the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers (45-22) on Saturday.