A week ago, the Denver Nuggets were up by 25 in the third quarter and seemingly cruising to a road win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Things flipped in a hurry and Los Angeles stole a sure victory away from Denver. After blowing the big lead Nuggets coach Michael Malone called out his team, and it responded with two wins before falling to Utah on Sunday night.
Denver gets a chance at redemption when it hosts the Clippers on Wednesday night.
The Nuggets had a much-needed two days off after playing three games in four nights. Denver had only 10 players available in the loss to the Jazz and hopes to get JaMychal Green and Austin Rivers back. Green has been in health and safety protocols since the Jan. 11 loss to Los Angeles and Rivers has missed the last two games win a non-COVID illness.
The Nuggets had players step up in routs of Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers. Jeff Green had big games, dunking five times in each game, while Bones Hyland hit five and six 3-pointers in the two games, respectively.
Denver's offense runs through Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 25.3 points, 13.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists a game. Jokic has recorded a triple-double in his last two games and has nine on the season. Despite winning the MVP last year, teammate Aaron Gordon doesn't think Jokic gets the star treatment from the officials.
"He's the reigning MVP of the league, and he's getting three free throws a game, still doing what he's doing," Gordon said. "But he needs more foul calls because they're fouling. It's not like begging, it's not asking for something that's not there. We're just asking for him to be officiated like everybody else is being officiated because that's not right. He's being fouled all the time. He needs more foul calls.
"It's crazy that Jok doesn't get more free throws."
The Clippers were in danger of experiencing what they did to the Nuggets last week when Indiana nearly rallied from a 19-point deficit. A couple of key baskets down the stretch held off the Pacers.
The win avoided a three-game skid before heading out on an eight-game road trip. Nicolas Batum came up big with a 32-point effort and hit seven 3-pointers to pace Los Angeles, and Reggie Jackson (26 points) and Marcus Morris Sr. (21) had good games.
"They've been there in big moments," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. "We needed every bit of it tonight, just to close that game."
Los Angeles continues to operate without Paul George and reports indicate the elbow injury will sideline him into February.
Wednesday will be the third of four meetings between the teams and the first one in Denver. The Nuggets won the first game in Los Angeles, 103-100, on Dec. 26 and nearly had the road sweep before blowing the huge lead and falling 87-85.
If the Clippers are going to win two straight against Denver they will have to contain Jokic again. Los Angeles will use a combination of big men to go against him, with Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein likely to spend most of the time defending Jokic.
--Field Level Media