The Denver Nuggets spoiled the Los Angeles Clippers’ season and home opener as the Clippers struggled late in the fourth quarter.
The Denver Nuggets sealed a 107-98 victory as they rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers as Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets in scoring with 21 points and Gary Harris scored 20 points in Wednesday’s contest.
The Nuggets led for the majority of the time in this game but trailed the Clippers with 5:14 left at 92-84 as the Clippers were on an 11-3 run with energy plays by Boban Marjanović.
Paul Millsap struggled with shooting throughout the game but made his first field goal on a jump shot with two minutes left to give the Nuggets a 95-94 lead during Denver’s 11-2 run late in the quarter. Millsap finished the game with 11 points and 16 rebounds and Will Barton added 16 points with shooting on 50 percent of his field goals.
Gary Harris’ two-pointer gave the Nuggets a four-point lead at 99-95 then Denver went on an 8-3 run to secure their win.
Los Angeles held Denver to 10 points in the third quarter as the Clippers defense was even-keeled. The third quarter was a bumpy one for both teams but the Clippers mustered up some energy after a huge Montrezl Harrell block on a Trey Lyles’ layup with 4:00 remaining in the quarter.
The Clippers missed a lot of open shots in this contest and in the first half, Los Angeles scored 12 points off second-chance opportunities. Los Angeles only had nine offensive rebounds in the game as the Nuggets hounded them with their 42 defensive rebounds.
When the Clippers were able to fight for their offensive rebounds, they were able to push the ball in transition to make good plays. Los Angeles’ offense feeds off their activity on the defensive end of the floor which allows them to take control of the game in their favor. There were points in the game in which the Clippers did not look cohesive on the defensive end of the floor that allowed for Denver to capitalize offensively.
Despite the loss, there were some bright spots for the Clippers. Los Angeles’ rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a stellar NBA debut off the bench with 11 points, two rebounds, four assists, one steal, and a block in 28 minutes of game action. Gilgeous-Alexander did not look like a rookie on the floor as he exuded confidence in the various plays that he made throughout the game.
Though much of Gilgeous-Alexander’s minutes attributed to Patrick Beverley getting into early foul trouble, he still put on a show.
Marjanović was another player for the Clippers to put on a show off the bench. He finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds. He was an unstoppable force for Los Angeles as Denver could not contain him on the offensive end of the floor.
Marjanović was also welcomed to the floor with raving cheers. Fans went wild when he would alter Nuggets’ players’ shots around the rim and throw down in the paint. He finished his dunk that he made with 6:55 remaining in the game as he hung and literally broke the rim which resulted in a delay to fix the basket.
Tobias Harris led the Clippers in scoring with 19 points on a 46.2 field goal percentage along with 10 rebounds. Danilo Gallinari added 16 points and eight rebounds against his former team.
Even with the pitfalls throughout the game for Los Angeles, there were positive sightings from players. Coming off an undefeated preseason with majority healthy players, the Clippers looked good in spurts throughout the game that made fans happy and hopeful for a productive season in a stacked Western Conference.
The Clippers will play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT in their second game of a three-game homestand.