Clippers guard Baron Davis is fouled by Denver's Chauncey Billups… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Things were wildly careening downhill, going from bad to worse, with not much relief in sight.
You knew there was an inevitable explosion the way the coach was percolating on the sideline. Had to happen.
It came late in the third quarter, a huffing puffing coach angrily protesting a call, moving toward the official, and earning a technical on Friday night at Staples Center.
Here's the shocker. It was not Clippers' Coach Mike Dunleavy, but Denver's George Karl unraveling while his team did the same on the court.
That was typical of the upside-down day and night for the Clippers' organization.
The Clippers built a sizable lead and, like so many other times this season, started to waver late in the game. Still, they managed to hold on, beating the Nuggets, 106-99, for their first win in eight games against Denver.
The Clippers (5-9) also stopped a two-game losing streak and managed to secure their second win in seven games.
They survived a jittery fourth quarter in which the Nuggets pulled to within two points with 6:10 remaining. Consecutive three-point baskets by Rasual Butler and Baron Davis about 30 seconds apart helped stop the Nuggets' momentum and restored the Clippers' lead to eight.
In between those three-pointers was an emphatic rejection of the Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony by Marcus Camby, who was playing despite a sore lower back.
"It was always like when it gets to that point, guys are always talking about, 'Well, we've been here before. Now are we finally going to respond?' " said Camby, of the numerous blown leads this season. "And tonight I think guys really responded against a great, great team and were able to pull it out."
Anthony was superb, scoring 37 points, 17 coming in the first quarter.
Butler, supplanted in the starting lineup by Ricky Davis, came off the bench to score a season-high 27, which included a season-high four three-pointers. Coming into the Denver game, the struggling Butler had been averaging 9.5 points.
"That was really good for me to be able to come off the bench and give us a spark and shoot the ball well, finally," Butler said. "It was no secret I've been struggling lately. I started to be a little indecisive, and I was missing those shots. That's just what happens sometimes. You start thinking too much and it becomes mental."
His numbers easily assured the Clippers of their best result off the bench. They outscored the Nuggets' bench, 54-21.
That was the end of the night. But the beginning was decidedly more strange. The Clippers took the court without venerable play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler calling the game. He and partner Michael Smith were suspended for Friday night's telecast on Prime Ticket.
The action came because of comments that were made during the Clippers' game at Memphis about the Grizzlies' Hamed Haddadi.
Dunleavy didn't know about the move an hour before the game, and the same was the case for most of the players, some probably not realizing the change until they saw announcers Michael Eaves and Don MacLean during the pregame warm-ups.
Dunleavy, before the game, revisited some of his comments from the previous day about the Clippers' fans.
"I made some comments yesterday and I'm not sure if some were taken in the wrong way," he said. "When I say about our fans don't understand -- they only understand wins and losses -- for a lot of people that's true. . . .
"But there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes as far as reasons for some things you are trying to do, as far as percentages on certain plays and certain things you are trying to play to. . . . They see the outcome of something.
"It's kind of like going to Vegas and getting 19 all the time and the dealer is getting 21. You felt pretty good about the 19 when you had it. . . . Over time, if you continue to do that, it will work out for you."
The Clippers are without two of their best young players: No. 1 draft overall draft pick Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, both out with injuries. Gordon could return next week.