Nuggets eliminate Clippers with 134-115 rout
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By TIM LIOTTA
LOS ANGELES (AP) After four games with their defense leading the way, the Denver Nuggets turned to their offense Saturday and regained control of their playoff destiny.
The Nuggets made 10 of their first 12 shots and they ran off to a 134-115 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
They will reach the postseason if they win their last two games.
"At this time of the year, it's all about finding a way to get wins," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said.
"We're playing `Get-It-Done' basketball. We're getting it done. Going into tonight, we'd been playing good defense. We controlled the game, won all four quarters, another big step in the right direction."
Will Barton scored 31 points and Nikola Jokic added 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Nuggets posted their fifth straight win to pull 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 the regular season at home against Portland on Monday night.
"I think overall - offensively, defensively, controlling our turnovers, I think we're playing overall our best basketball," Paul Millsap said. "Not our best offense we've played all year, not necessarily our best defense, but to be a good team you have to have balance."
It all sets up for the Nuggets' season-ending game against the Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Wednesday night. Minnesota, which holds the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, hosts Memphis on Monday night.
"Our guys have really taken that to heart," Malone said. "There's a belief in that locker room, a lot of positivity. I think we're all in, 100 percent, believing in each other."
Meanwhile, the injury-riddled Clippers were eliminated from the playoff race. The Clippers suffered their fourth loss in five games, falling to 42-38, 2 1/2 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.
"I don't think I have been more proud of a group, maybe ever, than I have been of this group," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who has been forced by injuries to field 35 starting lineups. "We have asked a lot of guys to do a lot of stuff they should not have had to do and yet they did it."
On Saturday, the Clippers simply could not keep up with the Nuggets as they had 36 assists on 53 field goals.
"The stat that jumps out at me was the fact that we had 36 assists, and eight turnovers," Malone said. "We actually had more assists than rebounds. I've never seen that before."
"When the ball is moving around like it was tonight, and you're able to shoot 62 percent, guys definitely made shots, but we passed up good shots to get great shots," Malone said. "The offense was obviously firing on all cylinders tonight."
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 play.
The Clippers never got closer than 12 points after that.
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.
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.
Updated April 7, 2018