Nuggets defeat Clippers in thrilling season opener

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) dribbles against LA Clippers guard Patrick Beverley (21) during the second quarter at Staples Center.
Oct 17, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) dribbles against LA Clippers guard Patrick Beverley (21) during the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets started the 2018-19 season on the right note Wednesday night with a thrilling 107-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

In what was a bit of a sloppy start, both teams struggled to get going after shooting just 3-9 from the field in the games first six minutes. Two Will Barton scores and a Gary Harris lay in got the Nuggets going offensively, which is something that started clicking even more midway through the first quarter.

After the first media timeout the Nuggets came out flying as Harris scored four straight points in the mist of a 12-5 run to give Denver a 19-13 lead. The attacking play from Harris and free-throw shooting of Nikola Jokic was the key to the Nuggets run, which continued the rest of the opening frame.

The offense from both sides really picked up to end the first quarter as the Nuggets took a 29-24 lead going into the second. After five straight Clippers points, the Nuggets second unit went berserk going on a 9-0 run to stretch their lead back to nine.

The Nuggets second unit continued their trend of phenomenal play, particularly from Malik Beasley, Monte Morris, and Trey Lyles. Those three combined to score 16 points in the first half to go along with four assists from Morris.

After giving way to the starters, the game started to even out after a 10-2 Clippers run shortened the Nuggets lead to three midway through the second. Denver found a way to keep the game in check though and took a 59-54 lead into the halftime locker room.

Barton led the Nuggets in scoring at the break with 13 points as Jokic wasn’t far behind with 12 after going 3-4 from the field, 6-6 from the free-throw line. At the half, Millsap led the Nuggets in rebounding with nine and provided tons of energy on the defensive end of the floor.

The second half started a lot like the first with sloppy play from both sides dominating the first seven minutes of the third quarter. The Nuggets still led 68-63 midway through the third, before Denver’s second unit subbed back in looking to provide another spark. The bench unit weathered the storm to give Denver a 74-72 lead going into the final frame with a chance to steal a road victory in their first game of the season.

The bench units success wasn’t quite there though as the Clippers began the fourth on a 12-7 run giving them a three point lead and ultimately forcing the Nuggets to sub most of their starting unit back in with seven minutes remaining. Just like he has in the past, Boban Marjanovic dominated the Nuggets in the post finishing the night with 18 points and eight rebounds. Denver’s problem with the Serbian big man put them behind the eight ball in the fourth as the Nuggets shots struggled to fall for most of the second half.

With just over six minutes left in the game, the Nuggets were shooting just 22 percent from the field in the second half and were in desperate need of a spark offensively. A huge three by Jokic cut the Nuggets deficit to one before Millsap’s first bucket of the game gave Denver a 95-94 lead with 1:48 left in the game.

Back-to-back buckets from Jokic and Harris gave the Nuggets a four point lead with 44 seconds remaining, which they wouldn’t give up. A 17-4 run from the Nuggets to close out the game was the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Clippers though as Denver captured a huge 107-98 road victory to open the season.

Jokic led the way for the Nuggets offensively finishing the game with 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Other notable stat lines were Harris, who poured in 20 points, and Barton who scored 19. Millsap led the Nuggets in rebounds with 16, and provided phenomenal defense for all four quarters.

The Nuggets now have two days off before they’re back in action Saturday night in their home opener against the Phoenix Suns.

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