LOS ANGELES — If you're looking for a benchmark for the Nuggets, they found it Tuesday night.
They might pride themselves on their bench, but they got a good look at how the Los Angeles Clippers have ripped off a 14-game win streak, the latest a 112-100 victory over Denver at the Staples Center.
Clearly, the Clippers are running on reserve power and the Nuggets couldn't match it.
Never mind Ty Lawson's promising outing after missing a half with an aching Achilles tendon on Saturday. Forget the free-throw shooting (the Nuggets made 16 of their first 20), or Kosta Koufos making his first eight shots and finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Yes, the 3-point shooting (the first nine missed) continued to stick out, but was that going to help?
The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman posts analysis, notes and more on this blog focussing on the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets entered the game seemingly a serious threat to end the Clippers' win streak, but when it was over, the Clippers emerged with the best record in the NBA. Yes, the Clippers.
As much as all of that might sting, the Nuggets (15-14) still don't mind being where they are after playing 11 more road games than home games this season.
After a virtually even first quarter, the Clippers' subs came in waves at the Nuggets and provided an example of what Karl described as "powerful and versatile."
The Clippers' reserves scored 28 points in the second quarter and had 38 in the first half. The Nuggets' starters had 29 points in the opening two periods. The stark difference was easy to see after the teams played to a statistical tie in the first quarter. The Nuggets held a 26-25 lead, both teams made 11-of-24 field goals, both had seven assists, both had 16 points in the paint, and the Nuggets held a 15-14 rebound edge.
"We just had one horrific quarter and you can't do that," coach George Karl said. "To beat one of the better NBA teams on the road you';ve got to have smarts and you've got to have intensity. I didn't think we had enough intensity to win this game. I thought our lack of smarts hurt us as much as anything."
Then came a flurry of drives by Jamal Crawford, who had 12 points in the first half. The Clippers kicked their lead up to 20 points and then held a 67-48 halftime lead.
What you might have missed. In the second period, Nuggets center Kosta Koufos gave the Clippers' Blake Griffin a little extra business as Griffin was being fouled by Andre Iguodala on a drive to the basket. Koufos then added a little extra bump to Griffin as he made his way to the free-throw line, but nothing escalated from there. . . . Before the game, Denver legend Chauncey Billups gave a pep talk to the Clipper fans. After the game, he greeted broadcaster Scott Hastings as “Scotty the Body,” then waited to have a heart-to-heart chat with Coach George Karl.
Final thought. Not enough damage control in the second quarter. The Nuggets outscored the Clippers in the other three periods.
Up next. Today vs. Lakers, 7 p.m.