The Denver Nuggets traveled to the west coast to take on the Los Angeles Clippers in Staples Center on Wednesday night. The game was a back-and-forth affair that featured 15 lead changes and 12 ties before the Clippers pulled away late for a 109-104 win.

Both teams were shorthanded for this one. The Nuggets were without their young guard, Jamal Murray, who sat with a concussion for his first missed game of his career after playing in 126-straight games. The Clippers, meanwhile, were without their resident goliath in the paint, DeAndre Jordan.

The latter seemed to have a bigger impact on the game as the Nuggets found most of their early points down in the paint. In fact, 12 of Denver’s first 13 points came in that area. Seven of those points came from center Mason Plumlee, who scored the first six points of the game for Denver.

While the Nuggets were finding plenty of offense in the paint, they were ice cold from deep. Denver finished the quarter just 1-8 from beyond the arc. On the other end of the floor, they had no answer for Blake Griffin. Griffin was the best player on the floor, finishing the first quarter with nine points and seven rebounds.

Denver was able to overcome their poor shooting effort and keep the game close; mostly due to an unexpected result in the first quarter’s turnover battle — an area that has plagued the Nuggets on the road all season long. This time though, the Nuggets forced five turnovers while committing none of their own. They trailed just 29-27 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter featured a strange lineup from Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone. Emmanuel Mudiay, who had been exiled to the end of Denver’s bench this last month, took the court alongside Gary Harris, Richard Jefferson, Trey Lyles and Kenneth Faried.

That group held their own and had the lead down to just one when the Nuggets starting frontcourt returned to the game with just under seven minutes left in the half. That’s when Gary Harris got hot.

Harris scored seven-straight points for the Nuggets in a run that would give Denver the lead. The Nuggets maintained their lead for the remainder of the quarter, despite being out-shot from the floor and out-rebounded. Thankfully, Denver successfully valued the basketball while creating 13 Clippers’ turnovers.

The Nuggets outscored the Clippers 32-21 in the second quarter and entered halftime with a 59-50 lead.  Harris led all scorers with 15 points and he added four steals, as well.

Basketball is a game of runs and the third quarter featured multiple big ones. The Clippers blitzed Denver out of halftime — opening up a 16-2 run to start the third. Los Angeles would eventually cut the Nuggets’ lead to just one as Blake Griffin continued to eat Denver’s porous interior defense alive.

The Nuggets, though, would respond with a run of their own on the back of their stingy defense and battled to get the lead back up to eight points. Some of Los Angeles’ younger players checked in to close out the quarter and they — particularly Montrezl Harrell — engineered an 11-2 run to close the quarter. The Nuggets lead was just 81-80.

The turnover battle began to swing in the Clippers’ favor in the final quarter. Denver turned it over five times before they could hit their fifth shot of the fourth quarter and the Clippers regained the lead. The two teams would trade blows until around the three-minute mark; when Denver began to intentionally foul Harrell.

Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers opted to leave Harrell in the game after he missed the first two free throw attempts. Denver went back to the tactic for the two subsequent possessions, but Harrell hit three of those four attempts and the Clippers ripped off a 6-0 run to push their lead to seven with just under two minutes left.

The game appeared over, but the Nuggets made one final push to cut the Clippers’ lead to just four points with less than sixty seconds on the clock. Denver forced a missed shot and Barton turned to run a fast break. Milos Teodosic mistakingly thought the Clippers had a foul to give and exercised it. Barton sank both free throws and the Nuggets fouled Griffin on the ensuing possession. Griffin bricked both attempts and Malone called his final timeout.

The Nuggets failed to tie the game as Will Barton demanded an isolation before forcing his way to the rim and losing the ball in the air — and the game in the process.

Following the loss, the Nuggets fall to 23-22 and 7-17 away from the Pepsi Center as they fall to the ninth seed in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture — for now. Denver will return home tomorrow before hosting the Phoenix Suns on Friday night