With March Madness officially underway, all eyes were turned to the NCAA Tournament; but that didn’t stop NBA action, as the Denver Nuggets welcomed in the Los Angeles Clippers to the Pepsi Center in a very meaningful and exciting game, despite who did and did not play.
The Nuggets outlasted the Clippers, winning by a score of 129-114; and all of a sudden, winning seems to be a formula Denver seems to find themselves getting familiar with. Their win streak is now at four games and it couldn’t have come at a better time. They now sit 2.5 games ahead of the Portland Trailblazers for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
“Very good win for us, offensively, this is who we’ve been,” said Nuggets coach Mike Malone. “It’s a big win, it’s a win that we needed.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the Denver Nuggets as of late is the way they’ve been able to adjust. This was their 28th different starting lineup, as they were shorthanded once again; this time without Darrell Arthur (rest), Danilo Gallinari (left knee bone bruise) and Wilson Chandler (right groin contusion). Malone said he doesn’t expect the injuries to be too serious, but he has no definitive timetable on the players’ returns.
So Malone went to his favorite saying: “when one payer goes down for us, it gives the next player an opportunity, we’ve been preaching around here, the next man up.”
Will Barton, who’s now riding a two-game hot streak after going through a bit of a cold spell, played that role well on Thursday. He finished with a career-high 35 points and five rebounds on an efficient 12-of-18 shooting. When asked what’s been going so well for him lately he said “just being aggressive, getting back to being me, stop thinking so much and just play.”
Nikola Jokic had another stellar performance tonight carrying Denver to victory by recording his fifth triple-double on the season. He finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists; further solidifying himself as one of the best big men in the league.
As bruised up as the Nuggets were, the Clippers were just as injured. Neither big men, DeAndre Jordan nor Blake Griffin, made the trip to Denver after falling to the Milwaukee Bucks in a close heartbreaker on Wednesday night.
Before the game, Malone said with the Clippers being without two of their best players, the player that worried him most was J.J. Redick.
Redick made it tough on the Nuggets all night giving a valiant effort to keep the Clippers in the game whenever there was a big run, he finished with 22 points and five rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting from the field.
Chris Paul also added 18 points and 14 assist.
Will Barton’s 35 points are now a career high for him. Before Thursday night’s game against the Clippers his career high was 32 points. His season high was 31 points.
Kenneth Faried returned from his injury. He has been out for seven straight games. He finished with 12 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.
Clippers: The Clippers return home to play the Cavaliers on Saturday.
Nuggets: Next up, Denver hosts James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Saturday.