Clippers ride Crawford's shooting to 102-98 win over Nuggets
LOS ANGELES (AP) Jamal Crawford never stews over statistics. As a prolific scorer, he knows he's usually one shot away from triggering an offensive outburst.
So it was easy for him to shrug off his 20-of-62 shooting in five previous games and let things fly. Crawford scored 21 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Clippers held off the struggling Denver Nuggets 102-98 Monday night for their fifth straight victory.
''I wanted to be aggressive and try to open up stuff,'' said Crawford, last season's Sixth Man of the Year.
Crawford scored Los Angeles' final five points and had a key save that led to a basket in the closing seconds, when the Clippers completed their biggest comeback of the season after trailing by 16 earlier in the game.
During timeouts, Crawford kept telling his teammates they were going to win.
''He was guaranteeing it,'' coach Doc Rivers said.
The usually soft-spoken Crawford said, ''I always have belief.''
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 19 points and 11 assists. Arron Afflalo scored 18, Wilson Chandler had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Jusuf Nurkic grabbed 10 rebounds in Denver's seventh straight loss.
Matt Barnes added 18 points for Los Angeles, and Blake Griffin had 14 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Chris Paul scored 15 points.
Griffin and Paul credited Crawford and the rest of the Clippers' bench for bringing them all the way back.
''He was huge,'' Griffin said about Crawford. ''His scoring was unbelievable and it can come in a flash. That's what he does for us.''
The Clippers trailed by 10 early in the fourth before Crawford found his shooting touch. He hit a tying 3-pointer, and then followed with another basket that made it 94-92 with 2:30 remaining.
Glen Davis exhorted the crowd, shouting ''Let's go'' at fans and waving his arms.
''His energy can lift a whole building,'' Crawford said. ''His energy is contagious. That can turn into wins for us.''
Afflalo tied it again before Barnes' go-ahead basket. Paul's pass was on its way out of bounds before Crawford saved it and passed to Barnes as Crawford was running out of bounds on the baseline. Barnes converted for a 96-94 lead.
''I knew if I saved it, he'd be right there under the basket,'' Crawford said.
Crawford converted three free throws to make it 99-94.
Chandler's floater and two free throws by Darrell Arthur drew the Nuggets to 99-98.
Crawford made two trips to the line in the final 5 seconds, going 3 of 4 to seal the victory.
''In the fourth quarter, I thought we fell asleep a few times when he was off the ball, and he was able to get clean looks coming off a pick,'' Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. ''We rotated over to their lesser shooters a few times, and Matt Barnes was able to swing it over to Crawford a couple of times.''
Denver led 77-69 going into the fourth, having padded its lead with an 11-0 run in the third.
''The effort is there, but we've got to develop some killer instinct,'' Shaw said.
The Clippers' defense started getting stops with 5 minutes left in the second quarter, triggering their transition game. They outscored the Nuggets 22-6 to take a 50-47 lead at the break. Griffin hit a layup off an alley-oop pass from Paul after Griffin got the offensive rebound. On the Clippers' next possession, Griffin returned the favor with an alley-oop pass that DeAndre Jordan dunked.
The Nuggets came out strong to start the game, shooting 59 percent and building a 16-point lead in the first quarter. Chandler hit back-to-back 3-pointers while scoring their first 10 points before Kenneth Faried and Afflalo teamed on a 12-0 run.
Nuggets: They lost their third in a row on the road, where they are 6-15.
Clippers: Barnes had a strained abdominal muscle, and re-aggravated it in the fourth quarter. ... The previous largest deficit Los Angeles had overcome this season was 14 points against Portland on Nov. 8. ... The Clippers evened the season series 1-all.
The rookie center made his 10th start in 33 games. He finished with six points, and all 10 of his rebounds were on the defensive end to go with three blocked shots. But the 7-foot ''Bosnian Beast'' committed four fouls.
''He gets in foul trouble because the benefit of the calls are going to go against the rookie most of the time,'' Shaw said. ''He plays a physical game and he's fearless. His game's been up and down, but he's had his moments.''
Jordan had seven points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in the first half. The Clippers center will have to wait until Thursday to find out if he will be a reserve pick for the All-Star game.
''That was a postcard to all the coaches,'' Rivers said of Jordan's blocks.
Rivers said he called his peers around the NBA in an effort to get Jordan a trip to New York along with Griffin for All-Star weekend.
''There's some begging,'' Rivers joked. ''I offer them food, drinks.''
Nuggets: At New Orleans on Wednesday.
Clippers: At Utah on Wednesday in the opener of their eight-game Grammy trip.