Nuggets hold off Clip­pers

Jo­kic helps Den­ver with­stand L.A.’s late rally

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By PAT GRA­HAM

— The Den­ver Nuggets put an ugly loss be­hind them with a state­ment win over a top-tier team.

Nikola Jo­kic had 20 points and 15 re­bounds, and the Nuggets with­stood a big rally to beat the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers 114-104 on Sun­day night.

This bounce-back per­for­mance was just what they needed to soothe their psy­che af­ter a clunker the night be­fore against a strug­gling Cleve­land squad.

“We looked like a to­tally dif­fer­ent team less than 24 hours later,” guard Monte Mor­ris said.

The moral was easy to de­ci­pher: “We have to come to play against teams we’re sup­posed to beat,” Mor­ris said. “Be­cause we al­ways show up against teams we know that can beat us.”

Trail­ing by as many 20 points in the sec­ond half, Los An­ge­les had pulled within six with 1:11 re­main­ing when Pa­trick Bev­er­ley was called for a foul on Jo­kic. Af­ter the Nuggets big man made a pair of free throws, Clip­pers coach Doc Rivers ar­gued with of­fi­cial Nick Buchert.

He was given two tech­ni­cal fouls and tossed from the game. Ja­mal Mur­ray hit both free throws to re­store some much-needed breath­ing room.

“Lis­ten, coaches can lose their com­po­sure, so can of­fi­cials,” Rivers ex­plained. “There’s no way I should have been thrown out of the game.”

Rivers had sim­ply reached his boil­ing point. He was still seething from a cru­cial call ear­lier in the quar­ter when Mon­trezl Har­rell got whis­tled for an of­fen­sive charge when he stepped in front of Jerami Grant as Grant guarded Kawhi Leonard. The Clip­pers were in the midst of a 10-0 run at the time.

“The pick was solid,” Rivers said. “The bot­tom line is I shouldn’t get a tech. That’s No. 1. That’s on me.”

Mur­ray fin­ished with 19 points and re­serve Michael Porter Jr. pro­vided a spark by scor­ing 13 for the Nuggets, who made their last field goal with 6:12 re­main­ing. They

went 9 of 10 on free throws from there.

The de­fen­sive stand­out of the game was Grant, who had two big blocks on Leonard.

“A cou­ple of great blocks at the rim you don’t see very of­ten against Kawhi,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

Leonard fin­ished with 30 points, while Lou Wil­liams had 26 and Har­rell added 25.

The Clip­pers played with­out star for­ward Paul Ge­orge, who missed a sec­ond straight game with a strained left ham­string. Los An­ge­les dropped to 8-6 this sea­son when Ge­orge doesn’t play.

This con­test marked the first of three between two of the up­per ech­e­lon teams in the Western Con­fer­ence.

Gary Har­ris showed signs of break­ing out of a shoot­ing slump by scor­ing 15 points but didn’t play late. He’s been dili­gently work­ing on his jumper af­ter shoot­ing 25.6% over his last four games. He was 5 of 9 against the Clip­pers.

“When he makes shots, the guys need to chase him and it’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent story,” said Jo­kic, whose team led by as many as 20 points in the sec­ond half.

Den­ver had quite a se­quence mid­way through the fourth when Will Bar­ton blocked a shot and Jo­kic grabbed the re­bound. He quickly threw it ahead to Bar­ton, who then dished it off to Mor­ris for a 3-pointer. Den­ver was up 18 and seem­ingly cruis­ing along be­fore the Clip­pers made things in­ter­est­ing down the stretch.

“The fo­cus was there. The en­ergy was there,” Jo­kic said. “It was a big vic­tory for us.”

TIP-INS

Clip­pers: Ge­orge re­mained back in Los An­ge­les to re­ceive more treat­ment on his ham­string. “We’ll just keep eval­u­at­ing,” Rivers said when asked about an up­date . ... Con­sid­ered day to day with a knee in­jury, F JaMy­chal Green played more than 17 min­utes and scored two points.

Nuggets: F Paul Mill­sap missed a third straight game with a bruised left knee . ... The Nuggets out­re­bounded the Clip­pers. They’re 18-2 when out­re­bound­ing a team. ... Mor­ris fin­ished with 12 points . ... Malone earned win No. 200 with the Nuggets.

As­so­ci­ated Press

BLOCK AT­TEMPT — Den­ver Nuggets guard Will Bar­ton (5) shoots against Los An­ge­les Clip­pers cen­ter Ivica Zubac (40) dur­ing the first quar­ter on Sun­day in Den­ver. The Clip­pers lost 114-104.

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