The postgame L.A. Clippers locker room had an old Nuggets feel to it. The Los Angeles Clippers face a tough test Sunday night as they hit the road to face the red-hot Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets have won six straight games and own the second best record in the Western Conference at 14-5. The Clippers, meanwhile, have lost nine straight games in Denver.
There, in the center, was Chauncey Billups, always the man of the moment in the Mile High City. Around him were all of the familiar media faces peppering him with questions about another night, another big shot, another big victory.
Only, this time, he left his old team with all the questions while he provided answers Sunday night.
In his first game back since being traded, Billups was every bit Mr. Big Shot as he and Chris Paul took over in the fourth quarter to outlast the Nuggets 109-105 at the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets, who had been riding high on a six-game winning streak, saw that snapped in excruciating fashion. Down the stretch they
Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov dunks in the first quarter. More photos. (John Leyba, The Denver Post) simply didn’t make enough plays to get the job done. The Denver Nuggets were outscored 15-6 to end the game.
“They made a lot of shots,” said Nuggets coach George Karl of Billups and Paul, who combined to score 19 of the Clippers’ 32 points in the fourth. “I think it was pretty good defense. I’m pretty sure the video will show that. We can’t do much more.”
The fourth quarter was a wild, back-and-forth affair, each team making one effective play after another on the offensive end.
A Nene bucket gave the Nuggets a 99-94 lead before the Clippers answered with five straight points, punctuated by a Billups 3-pointer with 3:01 left to tie it up. Billups then put the Clippers ahead 102-99 with a three-point play.
Paul rolled in a free-throw line jumper with 1:26 and L.A. led 104-101. But two Nene buckets — both dunks — got the Nuggets in front 105-104.
Two Paul free throws with 35.9 seconds left put the Clippers back on top 106-105. The Nuggets missed a layup on their ensuing possession and fouled DeAndre Jordan after the Clippers came away with the rebound. Jordan made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe with 23.4 seconds to extend L.A.’s lead to 107-105.
After a timeout, Nene was called for an offensive foul with 18.1 seconds remaining, which was the biggest blow to the Nuggets’ rally hopes. The Nuggets fouled Paul with 17.2, and he made both to push the Clippers’ lead to four. A failed Nuggets possession after that sealed the team’s fate.
“We kept it close, kept it close,” Billups said. “And Chris was big for us in the fourth quarter, made a couple of plays … and that’s how you’ve got to win on the road.”
Billups returned to Denver in style. He scored a season-high 32 points, nailing six 3-pointers in the process. The Clippers drained 14 3-pointers as a team, outscoring the Nuggets 42-18 from the arc.
They had a really good percentage from 3-point, Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari said. Chauncey ha an unbelievable game. They hit some tough shots and contested 3s.
It was a tough start in a tough stretch for the Nuggets. On Saturday afternoon, Karl gathered his team, lent perspective to their hot start and relayed a message of urgency about what they will face in the next 30 days.
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