Denver Nuggets 102, Los Angeles Clippers 103: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

LOS ANGELES – There was no shortage of drama to open the 2021 preseason for the Denver Nuggets, who saw a last-second 3-point attempt from Markus Howard bounce off the rim, securing a 103-102 victory for the LA Clippers. Despite the result, there were many bright spots for Denver in this opening contest.

Denver fell behind early to begin the game, but behind a 16-point quarter from Michael Porter Jr., clawed back to within six at the end of the first frame, 30-24. While Porter Jr. was scoring, Aaron Gordon was dishing, as he finished with three assists in the opening quarter.

The second quarter was a back-and-forth affair, as the Nuggets slowly chipped away at the Clippers’ lead. Bones Hyland and Bol Bol made their presence felt on the defensive end of the floor, as they combined for four blocks in the first half (three of which came from Bol, as expected). At the half, LA withstood 21 points from Porter Jr. to take a 54-51 lead into the break.

Denver took control of the game with a 15-2 run in the first three minutes of the second half. Aaron Gordon threw down an alley-oop and JaMychal Green contributed a mini 5-0 personal scoring run after replacing Jeff Green in the lineup to begin the third frame. Hyland re-entered the game and showcased his crafty handle to get to the rim for an and-one, as the Nuggets secured an 80-72 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Hyland continued to put his stamp on Monday’s game with several more buckets to open the final frame. The rookie guard finished with 19 points in the loss. However, the Clippers wouldn’t go away easily, using a late comeback attempt to tie the game at 100 with just about 90 seconds remaining. The game went down to the final possession, as Markus Howard missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give LA the win.

Here are three takeaways from the first preseason game of the 2021-22 campaign:

No slow start for MPJ

Porter Jr. had no desire to use Monday’s game as an opportunity to ease his way into the season. Fresh off his contract extension, the 23-year-old got buckets early and often in Denver’s loss to the Clippers.

In his 22 minutes of action, Porter Jr. finished with 23 points and seven rebounds on 9-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Heading into a season in which the third-year forward will be expected to shoulder a larger role on the offensive end, Monday’s game was a good glimpse into what fans can expect from Porter Jr. heading into the new season.

Hyland impresses in preseason debut

Many of the “ohhs” and “ahhhs” in the crowd came in the second half, where Hyland showcased his tight handle and versatile finishing ability around the rim. The rookie guard received 24 minutes of playing time Monday and made the most of each one, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field.

It remains to be seen whether Hyland can crack Denver’s guard rotation to begin the season, but if he can replicate Monday’s performance throughout the four remaining preseason games, it will go a long way in raising his stock heading into the regular season.

Bol Bol blocks (a lot)

If there’s one thing you can count on Bol doing when he gets on the floor, it’s block shots. The 21-year-old big man finished Monday’s contest with five blocks to go along with 11 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes.

Coming off a training camp week in San Diego in which he received praise from head coach Michael Malone and teammates such as JaMychal Green, Monday’s performance was another step in the right direction for Bol as he looks to crack Denver’s frontcourt rotation.

The Nuggets return to the court Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors (8 p.m. MT).

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