LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 17: Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets handles the ball against the LA Clippers on January 17, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Late Nuggets Rally Falls Short in Loss to Clippers

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

LOS ANGELES – This was a game in January, which normally suggests normal things. But the contest played between the Nuggets and Clippers on Wednesday night at Staples Center was anything but.

These teams understood the stakes. The Nuggets were trying to hold onto their position in eighth in an air-tight Western Conference playoff race. The Clippers were looking to climb into top eight. Every win against a team in competition for any of the final few spots looms large.

So, there were pieces of this game that felt like it was in April. In the end, the Clippers prevailed, 109-104, as they made the plays needed to close it out.

The Nuggets had their chances.

A 6-0 Clippers run starting at 2:32 in the fourth put them up 105-98. From then on, the Nuggets needed stops. And they got them, but didn’t take advantage on the offensive end. There were three straight possessions that they forced turnovers or misses, but one Gary Harris layup is all they had to show for them.

Still, they pushed. And when Will Barton made two free throws with 16 seconds left, the Nuggets were down just two points, 106-104. They fouled Blake Griffin. He missed both. The Nuggets, however, couldn’t capitalize on their possession. Barton was stripped going up for a shot after the first couple of options were defended well by Los Angeles.

But the Nuggets weren’t done. They fouled Sindarious Thornwell with 2.2 seconds left. He made one of two free throws. But on the next inbounds play, the Nuggets threw the ball the length of the court and out of bounds. Clippers ball.

One last gasp at a foul. The Nuggets fouled Wesley Johnson, and he made both free throws to seal the win.

Late quarter runs by the Clippers at the end of the third and fourth quarters were damaging to the Nuggets. The Clippers erased a 10-point lead in the third with an 11-0 run. And then at the end of the fourth as well.

The Nuggets had six players in double figures, led by Harris’s 19 points. Nikola Jokić had 18 points and eight rebounds. Barton finished with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists. Mason Plumlee scored a season-high 16 points with 14 rebounds and three steals.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.