Jamal Crawford had 23 points off the bench for L.A. as the Denver Nuggets once again stumbled late, losing to Clippers 102-98 Monday night to extend their losing streak to seven games.

It seems like, with this Nuggets team, I could copy/paste a game recap every single night. Another hard fought affair where the Nuggets played well enough to win – but a failure to execute, to do the small things well, cost them down the stretch.

The game got off to a promising start for Denver thanks to the work of Wilson Chandler, who had the first ten points for the Nuggets and helped his squad out to an early lead. Nobody expected that to last, and the Clippers eventually got going, but the Nuggets still had a 31-20 advantage after one quarter.

So of course, the Clippers came roaring back in the second and decisively won the battle of the second units tonight. Crawford is going to get his obviously, but his 23 points matched the output of Denver’s entire bench. Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye (who really looks like the odd man out right now in the rotation) had almost zero impact on the game, and J.J. Hickson did very little in his 17 minutes of court time.

The player the Nuggets really need, Danilo Gallinari, had another up and down evening – eight points on 3-7 shooting and a -13 plus/minus, but he did not down a couple threes. Gallinari probably didn’t help the team’s cause tonight, but there’s nothing to be done about it – the Nuggets aren’t going anywhere, and he’s got to work off the rust anyhow. Actually, his play over the past week has been encouraging; with all the injuries and time off, the worry was that Gallinari wouldn’t be the same player, athletically, when he returned. It looks like that fear is unfounded, and here’s hoping he can stay on the court long enough to prove it for good. The flashes that made him so much fun to watch are absolutely still there.

Anyhow, back to the game. After getting outscored 30-16 in the second quarter, the Nuggets roared right back and bested the Clippers 30-19 in the third. Arron Afflalo had nine points in the third and finished with 18 in a team-high 37 minutes, this on the second night of a back-to-back. That’s what makes these losses so frustrating – with so many good individual performances, it’s not crazy to expect a better result at the end of the night. That, and the Nuggets did a pretty nice job of bottling up Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Doing a job like that should lead to the win.

The Nuggets, nursing a eight-point lead heading into the fourth, got schooled by Crawford, who had 21 of those 23 points in the final frame.It’s completely fair to wonder how effective a fourth the Clippers would have had if Jusuf Nurkic, who had a team-high plus-13 in 29 minutes, had seen any time at all in the fourth quarter (I’ll let Nate Timmons of DenverStiffs.com take it from here).

The Nuggets, like last night against the Wizards, got outscored in the paint badly whenever Hickson took over at center. Hickson’s never been know as a defensive stalwart, but he’s not being put in a position to succeed right now, and neither is Denver. The George Karl-led Nuggets loved to run and attack the rim and they did it with a center on the floor 85 percent of the time. Nurkic is a beast down low, can run the floor, and doesn’t give up an ounce of athleticism to anybody – it just doesn’t make sense not to have him out there late in the game, especially with Hickson’s poor free-throw shooting.

The loss wasted another nice night from Ty Lawson, who 19 points and 11 rebounds on a tidy 7-12 shooting, including 5-6 from the line. Now at 18-27, the Nuggets have two more tough road games before welcoming in the Hornets at home. There’s a real danger this losing streak could hit double-digits.

Next up, the Nuggets will travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.

Zach Marburger is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @BurchBurger.

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