The Los Angeles Clippers were still reeling from the extracurricular events that took place inside Staples Center on Monday night against the Houston Rockets. Following that game, Rockets players’ Chris Paul, James Harden, Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza allegedly made their way to the back entrance of the Clippers locker room after a less than amicable exchange during the game.
“Everyone talks, you have to just choose not to react,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “To me it’s just white noise.”
In spite of the media frenzy surrounding the team, the Clippers came out to a sluggish start against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night at Staples Center. By the end of the first quarter, the Clippers starters looked near exhaustion but led the Nuggets 29-27.
By the end of the second quarter, the Clippers had committed 13 turnovers that were converted to 23 points for the Nuggets.
“We know we made a lot of defensive errors and gave them a lot of easy points,” said Clippers Montrezl Harrell, who anchors the team’s second unit better known as the Goon Squad.
The Los Angeles basketball team was outscored 32-21 in the second quarter. Clippers had a nine point deficit at halftime, 59-50.
“We talked about it at halftime, just playing harder than them for the next 20 minutes and I thought we did that,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.
The halftime talk was exactly what the Goon Squad needed to spark a 12 point scoring run at the start of the third quarter.
“We rely on them heavily at times,” Griffin said of the Clippers’ second unit. “We were down 10 and they just came in the game and chipped away at it. They were huge.”
“I thought that was the biggest difference in the game,” added Rivers.
A three-pointer by Lou Williams tied the Clippers up at 79 all in the third quarter. Williams, who is considered a perennial All-Star this season is averaging 23.3 points per game. He had a relatively quiet 17-point night.
Mudiay hit a step-back jumpshot to close out the third quarter. The Nuggets maintained a one point lead, 81-80.
In the fourth quarter, Harrell completed a three-point play to give the Clippers a 90-87 boost. Harrell, who struggled mightily from the free throw line, 6-13 including an airball and bank shot, made up for it with his defensive contributions.
“When they started doing the little hack-a-Shaq thing, I went to the line took a deep breath and shot the ball,” said Harrell. “It happened to roll in because I wasn’t thinking about it I just moved onto the next play. ”
Down the stretch MIlos Teodosic sunk two free throws to give the Clippers back the lead, 96-94. Harrell had a chase down block on Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee which lead to Wesley Johnson scoring on the other end. It was the Clippers’ biggest lead of the night 105-98 with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter.
Plumlee had 16 points and 14 rebounds. While Gary Harris scored a team high 19 points with 4 assists and 4 steals. The Nuggets had 21 turnovers.
For the Clipper, Griffin had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Harrell added 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals on the night.
“Our team in a lot of ways makes no sense, but it does to us if you know what I’m saying,” said Rivers.
The 109-104 win over the Nuggets was the Clippers sixth consecutive victory. Los Angeles is 12-3 in its last 15 games.