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Clippers Show Serious Regression

Pro basketball: Playing selfishly for first time, they are thrashed, 95-79, by the Nuggets.


DENVER — The way the Clippers played against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, it seemed as if Terry Dehere, Logan Vander Velden and Stojko Vrankovic had returned.

It was that bad.

For the first time this season, the Clippers played like a selfish team and Denver made them pay with an easy 95-79 victory before 10,842 at Pepsi Center.

Except for power forward Brian Skinner's career-high 23 points, the Clippers offered nothing positive in a lame effort that dropped them to 2-5. They misfired on 19 of 20 three-point attempts and made only 33.7% of their field goals overall.

"A lot of guys on the team were taking shots they shouldn't be taking," said veteran Eric Piatkowski, who missed all four of his field-goal attempts in 14 minutes off the bench.

"We're a super athletic team but we're not a good shooting team. We took some bad shots tonight . . . We're the type of team that plays well when we're playing defense and getting easy buckets. That wasn't the case [against Denver]."

The Nuggets, who have won eight in a row over the Clippers, were led by power forward Antonio McDyess, who finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Reserve shooting guard Voshon Lenard scored 19 points and veteran George McCloud had a career-high 12 assists off the bench for the Nuggets.

"We were looking sluggish," rookie Darius Miles said. "We were trying to encourage each other to get it going but we couldn't push ourselves to do it."

The Clippers pointed out Denver as one of the teams to shoot for this season and for one quarter Sunday, they played as if they were ready for the challenge.

Everything they tried seemed to work because the Nuggets defended poorly. The main recipient of Denver's generosity was Skinner, who scored 14 points in the opening quarter after entering the game with a 4.2 average. Skinner's previous career high was 18 points.

With Skinner dominating inside, the Clippers outrebounded Denver, 17-9, and claimed a 29-23 lead after the first quarter. When Tyrone Nesby scored on a drive to open the second quarter, the Clippers saw their lead reach eight points and then decided to take the rest of the game off.

"We usually start off bad and then play good," said point guard Jeff McInnis, who scored only eight points after entering the game as the Clippers' leading scorer at 16.2 points per game.

"Tonight it was just a complete reversal. We jumped on them and we felt like we had them where we wanted them. But we never regained our step after that."

After playing great team basketball to open the game, the Clippers turned into a "shoot-first-and-then-pass" team when Denver began using half-court defensive traps.

"I was disappointed offensively," Coach Alvin Gentry said. "We can't make one pass and shoot the ball and we did it on 36 of 86 shots. We shouldn't be shooting three-pointers if we can only make one of 20. We should drive to the basket and get to the foul line."

The Nuggets led, 50-43, at halftime and then allowed the Clippers to hurt themselves in the second half. After turning the ball over only three times in the first quarter, the Clippers ended up with 16 turnovers, including four each by center Michael Olowokandi and Miles.

The Clippers made their last run early in the fourth quarter when they cut Denver's 20-point, third-quarter lead to nine following consecutive baskets by Derek Strong. But the Nuggets recovered with a three-pointer by Nick Van Exel, who finished with 14 points and nine assists, and baskets by McDyess and Lenard to ice the game.

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