Denver Nuggets 101, Los Angeles Clippers 94: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

The new-look Nuggets proved just how effective they can be on defense in a gritty 101-94 win over the Clippers in Los Angeles.

Denver held Los Angeles, the No. 2-ranked offense in the NBA at 117.1, to just 94 points and 41.2 percent shooting. More impressively, the Clippers were held to just 10 of 34 shooting from downtown. The home team entered the night as the No. 1 team in three-point percentage (41.7) and No. 5 in three-pointers made per game (14.4). Denver led by as many as 18 before its second-half turnovers (10) allowed Los Angeles to rally. Although the Clippers would cut the deficit to just one point, Michael Malone’s team would respond with a 12-5 run to wrap up the result.

Denver had a well-balanced outing on both ends from its starting five, as the group all tallied double-digits in scoring. Jamal Murray led the way for the Nuggets, dropping 23 points on 9 of 18 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers, posting 24 points and 12 boards on 10 of 22 shooting.

The Nuggets now return to Ball Arena to play in front of the general public for the first time in over a year when they host the Magic Sunday (8 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE, NBA TV).

Here are the takeaways:

Lockdown defense

This is why the Nuggets acquired Aaron Gordon. The forward’s speed, athleticism was pivotal against the Clippers, taking turns defending Leonard and Paul George throughout the night.

Gordon finished the night with three steals, two blocks, six rebounds to go along with 14 points and six dimes. His comfort level on both ends is a big reason why the Nuggets are undefeated since his arrival, picking up big wins over the Hawks, Sixers, and Clippers. The best part of Gordon’s performance is it appeared to rub off on others, especially Michael Porter Jr.

Porter Jr., who was searching for his defensive footing earlier in the season, played a big role in George’s offensive struggles Thursday. The Clippers star shot just 5 of 15 on the night and didn’t have much of impact, finishing with 17. The ability to switch defensive assignments with two tall mobile forwards in Gordon and Porter Jr. has been a significant boost for Malone’s team. Porter Jr. had two blocked shots to go along with 20 points and four boards.

The dynamic duo delivers in the clutch…again

With the Clippers fighting their way back, it was Jamal Murray who provided a much-needed jolt for the Nuggets to stay ahead in the contest. The guard put up eight points and three boards in the final 12 minutes.

Then the Joker got going.

It was a quiet night by Nikola Jokić's MVP-level standards, but he still managed to make a significant impact in the final six minutes of the game to help the Nuggets ice the contest.

With 5:20 remaining, the center received a pass from Gordon on the top of the key and drained a three to push the Nuggets’ lead to 89-83. Prior to that play, the Clippers had just moments before cut the deficit 84-83. Jokić’s three proved to be vital and he would follow it up by assisting Michael Porter Jr on a dunk to push the lead to 93-88.

Three-pointers all the difference

Against a stingy Clippers, the Nuggets found a weakness in the Clippers’ three-point defense and exploited it. The visitors shot an impressive 52 percent from downtown, knocking in 13 threes.

Considering the Clippers hold opponents to 36.3 percent from downtown (ninth), it’s a credit to several shooting performances along with Denver’s ball movement. The Nuggets had 28 assists and saw three players hit two or more threes on the night; Murray, Nikola Jokić, and Will Barton III.


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