Griffin, Jordan each score 18, Clippers beat Nuggets 111-94
DENVER (AP) Wesley Johnson lacked the stats of his superstar teammates, though they were praising him after the Los Angeles Clippers snapped a three-game losing streak.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan each scored 18 points, and Johnson's presence in the starting lineup gave the Clippers a spark in a 111-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.
Jordan finished with 11 rebounds and four blocks, while Griffin had 10 rebounds. Chris Paul had 15 points and 10 assists to give the Clippers (7-7) three players with double-doubles.
Johnson, who spent the last two seasons with the Lakers, was averaging 5.2 points coming off the bench but had 11 in his first start at small forward. It was his overall play that had his teammates talking after the win.
''Wes was amazing,'' Paul said. ''Wes did a few things that won't show up on the stat sheet. A few deflections, a few helps early in the game. Just the way he ran the court and shot the ball well. We need that.''
He also boosted the Clippers' 26th-ranked 3-point percentage by hitting 3 of 4 from long range. The Clippers, who hadn't been under .500 this far into a season under Doc Rivers, made eight 3-pointers after coming into the game at 31.3 percent.
''I tried to do the little things,'' Johnson said. ''My mindset coming into the game was to my strengths and that led to second-chance points.''
The Clippers hit their first four shots from deep, missed their next seven but found the stroke again when Jamal Crawford hit a halfcourt shot to give them an 83-72 lead at the end of the third.
Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 20 points and had a career-high 18 rebounds.
Crawford scored the Clippers' first seven points of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 90-76. He finished with 15 points.
Denver started fouling Jordan, and the center was just 7 of 16 from the line in the fourth, but Denver couldn't hit enough shots to close the gap.
''It gives me a chance to work on my craft,'' Jordan said. ''It's cool. I know it's not personal. They're trying to win a basketball game. It's a pretty good strategy, I've just got to knock them down.''
His dunk on a lob from Paul gave the Clippers a 110-93 lead.
Griffin was struggling from the field until he hit a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock midway through the third. He hit two more shots and fed Jordan for a dunk to give the Clippers a 73-62 lead.
''That one 3 that Blake hits where he jumps in the air at the end of the shot clock and shoots it, and Jamal hits the halfcourt shot, when those kinds of plays happen we have a tendency to drop,'' Denver coach Michael Malone said. ''You have to have a short-term memory. We have to be a little more mentally tough.
Rookie Nikola Jokic had 16 points and Gary Harris scored 14 for the Nuggets, who have lost four straight and fell to 3-5 at home.
Clippers: J.J. Redick had 16 points. ... Griffin reached double digits in rebounds for the first time in seven games. He averaged 6.5 boards in his previous six games. ... The Clippers were outrebounded for the 12th time in 14 games. They are 5-7 when that happens.
Nuggets: All of Gallinari's rebounds came on the defensive end. ... F Kenneth Faried missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. With C Joffrey Lauvergne (low back strain) also out, the Nuggets were down to 11 players. ... Mike Miller made a rare first-half appearance and gave the Nuggets a jolt with two 3-pointers in seven minutes off the bench. He finished with nine points.
Malone picked up a technical with 1:53 left when he and Griffin exchanged words over the strategy to foul Jordan. Malone was surrounded by assistant coaches and Gallinari as he shouted toward Griffin as he went to the bench during a timeout. ''I apologized to our team tonight for getting that tech. As a head coach, as the leader of this team, I can't get caught up in that kind of stuff,'' Malone said. ''They were frustrated with us fouling DeAndre. Trust me, I'm not a fan of it, but it's a rule that you can use.''
Clippers: Host Utah on Wednesday night.
Nuggets: Host San Antonio on Friday night.