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Clippers hand Nuggets worst defeat of season, 132-111

December 23, 2018
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Los Angeles Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace, right, goes up to the basket under pressure as Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig defends him during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
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Los Angeles Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace, right, goes up to the basket under pressure as Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig defends him during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Denver Nuggets have hit a few bumps en route to the Western Conference’s best record.

Just not like this.

Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris each scored 21 points, Montrezl Harrell added 20 and the Los Angeles Clippers beat Denver 132-111 on Saturday for the Nuggets’ worst loss of the season.

The Nuggets (21-10) had not lost by more than 10 points and had won four straight.

“That was a tough one,” Nuggets forward Monte Morris said. “The Clippers just wanted it a little bit more.”

That was most obvious in the paint, where the hard-driving Clippers outscored the Nuggets 80-50.

“Eighty points is not a number I’m used to seeing on a stat sheet,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s just them beating us off the dribble. That’s them rebounding every missed shot. That’s them outworking us and (us) not being ready to compete at the level we needed to compete tonight.”

The Clippers shot 57.6 percent from the field.

“I thought our tempo set the tone,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Our pace tonight (was) maybe as good as I’ve seen. I mean, we never stopped it. Just continued movement and pacing. I thought we did it throughout the game.”

The Clippers went on a 15-4 run in the middle of the first quarter, but their cause was aided when Denver’s leading scorer, Nikola Jokic, was ejected. He led the Nuggets with 19 points despite playing only 20 minutes.

The Clippers led by 11 when the 7-foot Jokic was ejected in the third quarter for screaming at an official for the second time. Malone said he wasn’t sure what Jokic had yelled to draw the ejection.

“You’d have to ask him,” Malone said.

Jokic did not make himself available to reporters after the game.

After losing four consecutive games, the Clippers have won two straight.

“Our throw-out (ejection) defense is phenomenal,” Rivers quipped. “That was part of our gameplan.”

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Denver opened the season with a 107-98 victory over the Clippers. Rivers on the difference between the Nuggets then and now: “They believe now,” he said. “And they’re at that point, where it really doesn’t matter who they have on the floor. That’s how confident they’ve become.”

Clippers: Rivers slipped and fell awkwardly on the sideline during Thursday’s game against the Mavericks. At first he was concerned he had injured his knee, but now says it is fine. “You know what my first thought was?” Rivers said. “On the off-days, I can’t golf.”

PAINT DOMINANCE

Rivers said the Clippers controlling the inside game was not just a reflection of the Los Angeles frontline playing well, but also of guards driving aggressively to the basket.

“Just attacks,” Rivers said. “We played downhill.”

MISSING BIG PIECE

Jokic leads the Nuggets in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (10.0), and in his last five games had averaged 26.6 points and 12.8 rebounds.

“He’s our best player,” Morris said. “When you lose him, it’s tough. He usually initiates a lot of the offense. We couldn’t call him back.”

Jamal Murray had 18 points for Denver, and Morris 15.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Continue on the road to meet the Warriors on Tuesday.

Clippers: Play Sunday at the Warriors.

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Los Angeles Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace, right, goes up to the basket under pressure as Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig defends him during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)