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Clippers' four-game winning streak ends with a thud against Nuggets

Denver avenges a home defeat four days ago with a 112-91 victory over L.A. at Staples Center.

February 02, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • Clippers guard Randy Foye is fouled by Nuggets forward Al Harrington on a fast break in the first half Thursday night at Staples Center.
Clippers guard Randy Foye is fouled by Nuggets forward Al Harrington on… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

A wet blanket dousing a roaring fire — that's one way to describe the Clippers' 112-91 loss to Denver on Thursday.

The Clippers had been in the midst of a season-high four-game winning streak, having achieved three of their most impressive wins yet, and their meeting with Denver came on a night of historically good news:

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were named starters for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star game, becoming the first Clippers to start an All-Star game in 32 years.

Factor in that the Clippers (13-7) had beaten the Nuggets in Denver just four days ago, and a rematch win would have been a nice nightcap, with the bonus of earning their first five-game winning streak since 2002.

But instead, the Clippers played their worst game yet at home, before a sellout crowd of 19,223, dropping their home record to 10-3.

After the Clippers' 109-105 win Sunday against Denver, Nuggets forward Al Harrington said, according to the Denver Post, "I still feel that we're the better team."

Denver sure looked it, and the Clippers looked like a team that was playing its fourth game in five days and its second in as many nights.

The Clippers looked worn down while Denver's high-octane offense that leads the NBA in scoring revved in top gear.

Led by Danilo Gallinari's 21 points, five players scored in double figures for the Nuggets (15-7), who received 39 points from their bench as they ended a two-game losing streak.

Griffin (18 points) and Paul (15 points, 9 assists) had quiet nights.

"I'm proud of the way our guys are hanging together a little bit with a difficult week that we've had," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said.

The Clippers led by 13 in the first quarter but trailed by 19 at the end of the third.

"It's real crazy," Paul said afterward, "but that's been a thing for us this season. We get off to really good starts and our second quarters haven't been the best. Like we've been saying about a lot of things, we're still a work in progress."

The difference between the first quarter and the next two was shooting: Denver was hot, the Clippers were not.

Denver outscored the Clippers by 32 points total in the second and third quarters. In the fourth, their lead widened to as many as 27.

"It was a difficult game and we didn't manage it very well in any aspect," Del Negro said.

Before the game, Denver Nuggets Coach George Karl had gushed about the Clippers, going through the lineup player by player and praising their capabilities and how their roles suited the team.

"It's a fun team to play," Karl said, adding, with a tint of humor, "I'm a little scared."

Karl was asked why playing a team that he perceived as so well-rounded would be any fun.

"Well, I'm not going to tell you what their weaknesses are," he said. "There are some things we think we can take advantage of, and we'll have to, to make it a fourth-quarter game."

It wasn't a fourth-quarter game at all, but if Karl aimed to expose the Clippers' perimeter defense, he did that well. Denver made 12 of 21 three-point shots, led by Gallinari, who made all five of his three-point shots.

DeAndre Jordan hurt his left knee Wednesday against Utah, and although it didn't seem to bother him against Denver, he was ineffective, finishing with only two points.

Likewise, Caron Butler had been hindered by a sore lower back and sat out against the Jazz, but he too returned and struggled, missing nine of 14 shots.

The Clippers' Chauncey Billups and Denver's Andre Miller each played in their 1,000th games.

Billups scored just eight points to mark the occasion, and Miller scored eight points and had eight assists.

Overall, it was not the way the Clippers wanted to set the tone for a six-game trip, which starts Saturday at Washington.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com twitter.com/baxterholmes

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