LOS ANGELES (AP) — Will Barton scored 31 points and Nikola Jokic added 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and the Denver Nuggets earned their fifth consecutive victory with a 134-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
The Nuggets pulled into a tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves for eighth place in the Western Conference with two games to play. Both teams are 45-35.
The Nuggets finish up the regular season at home against Portland on Monday night before playing the Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.
Minnesota, which holds the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, hosts Memphis on Monday night.
The Clippers were eliminated from the playoff race. The Clippers suffered their fourth loss in five games, falling to 42-38, 2½ games out of eighth place with two to play. The elimination ends a run of six consecutive postseason appearances for the Clippers, who previously missed the playoffs in 2010-11.
Jamal Murray added 19 points, Paul Millsap had 15 and Wilson Chander 13 for the Nuggets, who shot 62.4 percent from the field.
Lou Williams scored 24 points to lead the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 17 rebounds, with Tyrone Wallace added 18 points and Tobias Harris had 16 for Los Angeles.
Leading 81-71, Barton hit a 3-pointer after the Nuggets grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to ignite a 12-3 run that finished with Harris making the score 93-74 with 3:09 to pay.
The victory was Denver’s first this season over the Clippers, who won the first two meetings, 109-104 at Staples Center on Jan. 17, and 122-120 in Denver on Feb. 27.
Nuggets: Opened the game making 10 of 12 shots for a 21-13 lead with 4:41 left in the first quarter, finishing the quarter 15-of-21 for a 33-26 advantage.
Clippers: Lou Williams, the team’s leading scorer, was 0-for-7 in the first half, scoring eight points on free throws. His first basket, a 3-pointer, came with 7:04 left in the third with the Clippers down 80-66.
The Nuggets had kept their playoff hopes alive with four wins by four points or fewer, two in overtime, thanks to an improved defense. Over the four games, Denver held opponents to 44 percent shooting, four points better than its season average.
“We’re not waiting for the fourth quarter for that, we’re doing that as early as possible, trying to get key stops,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “The end of the first quarter is as important as the end of the fourth quarter.”
After the Clippers were badly beaten 117-95 by the Jazz in Utah on Thursday night, Doc Rivers gave his team the day off before playing the Nuggets.
“Watched film, watched the Masters, went out and played nine,” Rivers said. “What can you do? We don’t have enough bodies in practice. You’ve got to get your mind ready.”
Nuggets: Host the Portland Trailblazers on Monday night.
Clippers: Host the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.
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