Nothing about this season is beautiful for the Nuggets. Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers is perhaps the ugliest to date.
The Nuggets blew a 25-point lead in the second half and collapsed in a terrible 87-85 loss in Los Angeles.
Nikola Jokic’s last second 3-point attempt failed and Aaron Gordon’s attempt at put-back was knocked out. It would have saved a terrible performance in the second half.
“We have a really good player that we can’t get the ball to,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “We had a lot of guys who looked a little nervous out there when they increased their pressure.”
While Denver’s offense melted away, walling 3-pointers and protecting the ball as if they had already secured the win, the Clippers found their 3-point shot. Los Angeles buried 10 from the 3-point line, almost all coming in the second half.
It spoiled Gordon’s performance with 30 points, 12 rebounds and made Jokic’s night with 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists meaningless. The Nuggets finished the night with 19 turnovers, including five from Jokic.
Now 20-19, the loss snatched Denver’s two-game winning streak.
The Nuggets played downhill, attacked basketball to start the third quarter and ripped off an 11-4 run. Through the Jokic, the Nuggets built up a game-high lead of 59-34 before the wheels fell off. As revenue increased, including several instances where the Nuggets failed to capitalize on a Jokic mismatch inside, the Clippers began to chisel away. A 21-3 Los Angeles race changed the color of the game and gave Los Angeles life.
Marcus Morris, brother of Heat veteran Markieff Morris, was at the heart of it. His blatant first half at Austin Rivers set a physical tone as he threw a forearm against Rivers’ neck area. As Los Angeles itched back into the game, Morris’ mere presence offered an underlying excitement throughout. The Nuggets had a weak lead of 66-55 heading into the fourth quarter.
Malone praised his team for their resilience in the midst of the NBA season’s ever-changing climate. Before the game, he noted that despite the chaos COVID had caused, the Nuggets had 5-2 in their last seven games.
“The amount of moves that have been made in the last two weeks just seems like it’s crazy,” Malone said. “… It certainly makes it challenging when you get guys to fly in and meet you on the road and you know we’re handing out” Hey, my name “stickers that everyone can wear so we get an idea of , who is who. ”
On Tuesday, that meant the inclusion of Rodney McGruder, who came to Denver via the Bol Bol deal, and James Ennis, who signed a 10-day congestion deal. Malone credited the two veterans for quickly capturing concepts at Tuesday’s shooting round.
The first half was hardly an offensive masterpiece from either side, but the Nuggets fought hard for their 41-28 break lead. The sloppy, incoherent offensive only magnified Jokic’s significance.
As usual, he controlled all elements of the game. With seven points, eight rebounds and four assists, he lay on the glass where the Nuggets had a marked advantage of 35-18 in the first two quarters. Having the ball in his hands, he dissected the defense, waiting for a moment of Clipper’s vulnerability.
This led to more backdoor curves, which became more important as the offensive stalled.
Gordon planted himself inside and went to the break with 12 points and six rebounds.