Seven Nuggets scored in double figures as Denver won its seventh straight overall and improved to 27-3 at home, tied with the Miami Heat for best in the NBA.
More importantly, they lost the season series to the Nuggets 2-1, a tiebreaker that could come into play if Denver can catch them for the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Right now, the Nuggets are in fifth, behind Memphis.
Before tip-off, Nuggets coach George Karl was asked about facing one of his favorite players, Chauncey Billups, his former point guard who was dragged into the Carmelo Anthony trade a couple years ago.
“I hope he has a good game,” Karl said, “and I hope we win.”
The Nuggets, who last won a dozen straight at home in 2005, got the best of Billups in his latest homecoming. He scored eight points.
Karl also said his goal was three-fold: “I’d like to win the turnover game, I’d like Chris Paul to be just good and not great and at the end of the night we have the same amount of 3-pointers as they do.”
Both teams had 11 turnovers, Denver outscored Los Angeles by a dozen points from long range and Paul was good, not great, scoring 16 points and dishing out 10 assists, one fewer than Lawson had.
A bucket by Griffin, who was coming off his third career triple-double, gave the Clippers a 60-59 lead before the Nuggets scored 20 of the next 24 points to grab control.
Andre Iguodala‘s wide-open 3-pointer from the right elbow put Denver ahead 67-60. He added another 3, then fed Danilo Gallinari for a shot from the exact spot on the right side. A drive by Lawson and an alley-oop dunk by Gallinari made it 77-64 and forced a timeout.
The Clippers pulled to 85-75 heading into the fourth quarter but never got closer than eight before the Nuggets turned up the heat, outscoring them 13-2 on the fast break in the second half and stretching their lead to 18.
Jamal Crawford, who had a game-high 22 points in the Clippers’ win over Denver on Christmas Day, sat out with a sore left ankle that he injured Wednesday night in L.A.’s 117-101 win over Milwaukee in which he scored 25 points.
“His ankle is pretty swollen, pretty sore after the flight last night with the back-to-backs,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Del Negro said the Nuggets could withstand the loss of Crawford because none of his players logged extensive minutes against the Bucks, and sure enough, the Clippers were every bit as fresh as the Nuggets, matching them on fast-break points at six each in the first half, which ended in a 49-49 tie.
Of any Nuggets opponent, the Clippers can counter Denver’s break-neck style. But the Nuggets began to beat them on the break in the second half.
NOTES: Denver is 27-11 against Western Conference teams. … The Clippers have won six of the last nine games against the Nuggets. … Billups is still a beloved figure in Denver, where he grew up. Said Karl: “I just think Chauncey’s a winner, he’s a class human being, he cares about the game, he cares about the city of Denver, he’s just one of those guys that whenever he retires, I’m sure we’ll want him back here, I’m sure the Nuggets will figure out how he’ll be a part of the Nuggets if he wants to be a part of the Nuggets.”
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