DENVER (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 21 points before taking an elbow to the face in the fourth quarter, Paul George scored 23 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets 121-108 on Friday night.
The Clippers led by 11 with 6:11 left when Serge Ibaka went up for a rebound and caught the side of his teammate’s face with his right elbow. Leonard lay bleeding on the court before walking to the locker room.
Leonard was ruled out shortly thereafter, but the Clippers didn’t need him to close out a Nuggets team that upset them in the second round of the Western Conference semifinals last season.
Nikola Jokic finished with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for Denver, which has dropped its first two games of the season. Jamal Murray added 23 points, 13 coming in the fourth.
The Nuggets rallied from double-digit second-half deficits in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the second-round series in September, winning all three and wiping out LA’s 3-1 lead to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Denver wasn’t able to do it again but made a run after trailing by 24 late in the third quarter. The Nuggets used an 11-0 run into early in the fourth, and two 3-pointers by Murray sliced a 98-74 deficit to 106-95 with 7:35 left.
Leonard went out soon after but Denver never got the deficit under 10.
Clippers: F Marcus Morris (sore right knee) missed his second straight game, but coach Tyronn Lue said he is day-to-day. “He’s been doing his own rehab with the sports science team and he’s progressing,” Lue said.
Nuggets: F JaMychal Green sat out with a left calf strain. Green, who played for the Clippers last season, has yet to play in the regular season after signing with Denver in the short offseason.
Clippers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.
Nuggets: Host the Houston Rockets on Monday night.