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Clippers show promise in win over Nuggets

Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan make things happen as L.A. refuses to fold in the stretch this time..

January 05, 2011|By Chris Foster

The Clippers avoided the three-peat.

The moment was primed for the same-old, same-old.

A strong performance led to a halftime lead, then a lackadaisical start to the second half against a Denver team that kept pressing.

What ended up missing was the Clippers' collapse.

Instead, they responded to every challenge and walked away with a 106-93 victory over the Nuggets at Staples Center on Wednesday.

This was progress, as mapped out by Clippers guard Baron Davis. "You go from a team that doesn't have good record, to one that is a promising team, and a team that goes from a promising team to good team, a good team to playoff team, a playoff team to an elite team," said Davis, who had 16 points and eight assists.

Where the Clippers sit on that food chain is still far from elite. But there was a little promise in the effort.

The Clippers took leads into the locker room at halftime in their two previous games. They took losses home after the games, unraveling in the second half against Utah and Atlanta.

Wednesday's game had that same feeling … for a time. Then it became an over-the-hump moment.

"Right now we're in the process of learning what it takes," Davis said. "We get to a certain point, we have to get to another point. We have to have that extra burst of energy, that extra burst of an attacking mentality."

The sink-or-swim point came when Carmelo Anthony dunked on a rebound to cut the Clippers' lead to 84-80 with nine minutes left.

The Clippers winced, then went on a 17-5 run.

The difference this time around was clear to Coach Vinny Del Negro.

"It was a combination of things," Del Negro said. "Tough defense, denying second-shot opportunities and fewer turnovers. We had only 12 turnovers. That's a lot better."

Under that umbrella were the usual suspects.

Eric Gordon, who showed up ill for the game, had back-to-back three-pointers during the fourth-quarter run, part of his 28-point game. Blake Griffin had his 22nd consecutive double-double, tying a franchise record, with 22 points and 18 rebounds.

But there was also a newcomer stepping out of the role-player persona.

Center DeAndre Jordan keyed much of the Clippers' first-half surge, then helped close out the victory. He had 14 points, matched his career-high with 20 rebounds and blocked six shots. He has 19 blocks in the last three games.

Jordan, starting in place of the injured Chris Kaman, was a dominant inside presence from the start, helping the Clippers to a 51-43 halftime lead.

"We're a fastbreak team," Gordon said. "When he gets those rebounds and blocks that many shots, it gets us going."

Jordan scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including a monster dunk off a lob pass from Griffin.

"The big thing for DeAndre is he's getting consistent playing time for the first time," Del Negro said. "When he plays like that, it's a huge boost to us."

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