Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
DENVER – During an undefeated five-week run by the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets were just another team they beat along the way. The second time around, the Nuggets were the team that ground the Clippers’ streak to a halt.
Danilo Gallinari led six Nuggets players in double figures with 17 points, and Denver stopped the Clippers’ franchise- record winning streak at 17 games with a 92-78 victory Tuesday night.
The Clippers’ streak was the longest in the NBA since the Boston Celtics won 19 in a row from Nov. 15-Dec. 23, 2008.
“We were all a step slower (Tuesday),” said Blake Griffin, who had 12 points for the Clippers. “We’ve got to be better than that. We’re not going to sit and cry on the plane and get beat down. We’re not going to cause ourselves to lose our confidence, despite what people want us to do. That’s the best thing about the NBA – you’ve got another game.”
Griffin went 4 of 11 from the field – the first time he’s shot below 50 percent in 18 games.
Andre Iguodala said the victory against the NBA’s hottest team could help Denver build “our confidence, our swagger.
“The Clippers have been playing with that the last 18 games. That builds into them winning. They have the mentality every night they’re going to go out there and win. We’ve got to build the same thing and try to string along the same type of win streak.”
The loss was the first for the Clippers since a 105-98 setback against New Orleans on Nov. 26. It also marked the end of a franchise-record seven-game winning streak on the road.
Kenneth Faried added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets, who won their eighth in a row at home.
The Clippers, whose point total was two above their season-low, were hurt by poor shooting from 3-point range (5 of 29, 17.2 percent) and the free throw line (13 of 29, 44.8 percent).
Eric Bledsoe also had 12 points, DeAndre Jordan had 11 and Chris Paul 10 for the Clippers.
“Maybe two or three of the 3’s that we missed, they had a hand in our face,” Paul said. “But we got all the shots that we wanted. There are going to be nights like that. It just hasn’t happened for a while.”
Andre Miller, starting in place of point guard Ty Lawson, had 12 points and 12 assists for the Nuggets. Lawson, the team said, has been bothered by tightness in his left Achilles’ tendon for the past week, forcing him to miss a game for the first time this season.
“We don’t win this game without Andre,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “He just got us easy baskets, got a lot of guys involved, gave our team a lot of confidence.”
Miller said, “It was a good win against a good team. We beat them every quarter. It was a weird game, kind of slow. Both teams want to get up and down the court. It was one of those nights were we fell into some easy baskets. We controlled our turnovers and had the energy on our side.”
Iguodala also helped out at point guard and chipped in with 12 points and eight assists for Denver, which lost to the Clippers in Los Angeles, 112-100 on Christmas Day.
After Bledsoe hit a 3-pointer to pull the Clippers to 65-58 with 1:54 left in the third quarter, the Nuggets scored eight of the next nine points, including JaVale McGee’s first career 3-pointer at the buzzer to take a 75-59 lead into the fourth quarter. McGee, who had a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Andre Miller on Denver’s previous possession, hadn’t even tried a 3-pointer in a game all season until then. He blew on his shooting hand after making the trey as if he had to cool it off.
The Clippers cut it to 87-73 with 4:02 remaining when Griffin made one of two free throws but the Nuggets, as they did throughout the game, had an answer with Iguodala getting loose in the paint for a slam. The Clippers didn’t threaten the rest of the way.
The Nuggets took a 12-point lead with 3:01 left in the second quarter when Faried buried a short hook shot before settling for a 48-43 halftime advantage.
Los Angeles closed the period with a 9-2 run, starting with Paul converting a three-point play followed by a dunk from DeAndre Jordon off a lob pass from Paul.