Reporting from Denver
Learning how to deal with the third quarter continues to vex the Clippers, young and old.
That piece of the puzzle confounded the Clippers (1-5) yet again and the Nuggets carried their momentum into the fourth, beating the Clippers, 111-104, on Friday night at Pepsi Center. The Clippers scored 17 points in the third and let the game slip away as the Nuggets went on several mini-surges.
Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 30 points and didn't grab his first rebound until late in the third quarter, after recording 15 on Wednesday. It hardly mattered, nor did the absence of injured center Nene, the way Anthony and the veteran Nuggets ground it out.
The Clippers undermined themselves at the free-throw line, making only 16 of 25, and Chris Kaman continued his season-long struggle, going five for 18 for 10 points. Rookie Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 26 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double in six games.
Another Clippers rookie, Eric Bledsoe, making his third consecutive start at point guard because of injuries to Randy Foye and Baron Davis, was an impressive setup man, finishing with 13 assists and 12 points. The Clippers were two for 15 from three-point range.
"They came out real aggressive and we tried to match [in the third]," said the Clippers' Craig Smith, who had 18 points off the bench. "We kind of got into their game a little bit, a transition game. That's what killed us.
"When we got them into a half-court set, we did a pretty good job. Overall, we kept fighting and kept fighting, even in the last 10 minutes. That's just going to have to carry over to tomorrow."
In the background of it all, however, was the injured Davis. He was at his best, most confusing self — and count the Clippers among the confused, too.
Davis told AOL FanHouse in the afternoon that his left knee has been hurting him since 2007, and he expanded upon that in a pregame session with The Times, saying the knee has probably hurt him longer than that
"The cyst has been there for a long time," he said.
Said Davis: "Years."
The Clippers will be going to arbitration in April with their former coach and general manager Mike Dunleavy, according to Dunleavy's attorney Miles Clements.
Arbitration will be held before Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services in Santa Monica close to 10 months after Dunleavy originally filed, seeking the $6.75-million remaining on his contract.
That development set the stage for the Clippers moving to drop their lawsuit against Dunleavy in Los Angeles Superior Court. The Clippers drew national attention in the summer when they tried to halt Dunleavy's arbitration claim by alleging he fraudulently induced the Clippers into entering an employment agreement.
"We elected to prove our claim in arbitration rather than the court system," Clippers general counsel Robert Platt said in a telephone interview.