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Game Preview: Nuggets Face the Clippers Eyeing Fifth Straight Victory
LOS ANGELES – It is rare that NBA basketball not on a holiday gets played at lunch. Or late lunch. Yet that’s the situation the Nuggets, in a 1:30 p.m. tip-off on Saturday at the Staples Center against the L.A. Clippers, find themselves in.
But aside from some game-day routines an early game skews, basketball, Nuggets players say, is basketball.
“I used to hoop at 5 a.m. or 10 at night,” said guard Jamal Murray. “It didn’t matter.”
This game is the latest of a string of highly-important contests for the 44-35 Nuggets, who are looking to keep pace in the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race. They enter the game in ninth place, one-half game out of the eighth – and final – playoff spot. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ win over the L.A. Lakers on Friday night nudged them just ahead of the Nuggets.
So, closing that distance is the goal.
The Nuggets can also eliminate the 10th-place Clippers from playoff contention with a win today.
Doing all of these things requires the Nuggets to embark on new territory this season. They have not won more than four straight games in any stretch. This would be their fifth-straight win. It also requires them to win on the road, which, with just 14 victories away from the Pepsi Center this season, hasn’t always been easy for them to do.
And it requires them to beat the Clippers, who have nabbed victories over the Nuggets in the first two games of this three-game season series.
It’s a good thing, then, that the Nuggets are playing some of their best basketball at the right time.
“We just want it right now,” center Mason Plumlee said. “We’re just playing with a little extra. Making one extra play, getting one extra loose ball, rebound, whatever it is. Guys are just playing with the extra effort.”
And the Nuggets continue to find ways to win without one of their leading scorers, guard Gary Harris, who will miss his 11th-straight game due to a right knee sprain/strain. One of the reasons has been timely – and improving – defense.
“We’ve just got to stay locked-in,” Murray said. “We’ve got to stick together, keep talking, keep on working, and keep trying to figure it out. We’ve had great game plans going in – coach has done a great job of telling me what to do on defense and I’ve been trying to go out there and execute. So, trying to send a message to my team and hopefully come up with some big stops, like we have.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter