Clippers beat Nuggets 105-90, clinch playoff spot
LOS ANGELES (AP) Each blocked shot by DeAndre Jordan got the Los Angeles Clippers a little bit closer to the postseason.
Jordan had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and his six blocked shots set the tone while the Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets 105-90 on Sunday to become the fourth Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot.
''He's one of the better rim protectors in the NBA,'' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. ''And for every shot he doesn't block, he has guys hesitating. I thought we got very passive tonight once he blocked a couple of shots.''
Jordan had four pivotal blocks for the Clippers during a decisive third quarter. Los Angeles outscored Denver 25-12 and led 77-60 heading into the fourth.
''This team dominated us in the paint the last time we played them,'' Jordan said. ''That was a big emphasis for us, to protect our paint, and limit those guys to one shot, try to keep their second-chance points low.''
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was particularly impressed that Jordan blocked two shots against the player he was already defending.
''That's hard to do,'' Rivers said. ''When you are blocking the weak side, we need him to do that every night. When you start blocking your own guy's shot, you are really locked in, and I thought he did that today.''
Chris Paul added 14 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Jamal Crawford also had 14 points, Jeff Green and Wesley Johnson each had 13 and J.J. Redick had 12.
The Clippers had a 25-8 edge in fast-break points, which was also a credit to Jordan's presence inside.
''He's our energy guy, the captain of our defense,'' Paul Pierce said. ''He gets the rebounds obviously, but we have been going to him a little bit more in the post on offense. He's starting to fulfill a lot of his potential. He is still young and still has a lot of room to grow. He's showing that he can keep getting better and better.''
Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points, and D.J. Augustin added 18 for Denver. Gary Harris had 11 points, Joffrey Lauvergne had 10 and Darrell Arthur grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Nuggets are 10th in the West with eight games remaining and fell 5 1/2 games behind the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets in the race for the conference's eighth and final playoff berth.
''That third quarter killed us,'' Malone said. ''We had five turnovers, and if we didn't turn the ball over, DeAndre blocked our shot it felt like. We just could not score.''
THRILL AT BOTH ENDS
Jordan brought out the loudest roar out of the Staples Center crowd in the third quarter, blocking a shot at the defensive end, then running the floor, taking a fast-break, over-the-shoulder, alley-oop pass from Paul and slamming it home with 9:14 left.
Jeff Green, playing with the first unit in the second quarter, scored seven consecutive points for the Clippers, and grabbed three rebounds, including two offensive, over a 2:36 span. Green was acquired from Memphis for Lance Stephenson on Feb. 18.
The game's 12:30 p.m. start time apparently did not appeal to the Nuggets, who missed their first six shots, with a pair of turnovers thrown in, and needed 3:47 to get on the scoreboard.
Denver: Six of Denver's 10 first-quarter baskets were 3-pointers. ... Kenneth Faried was a game-time decision and did not play. He also missed the Nuggets' previous five games - four with lower-back stiffness and one on a coach's decision. ... The Nuggets beat the Clippers 87-81 in their previous trip to Staples Center, a game in which the Clippers shot a season-high 46 3-pointers.
Los Angeles: The Clippers activated Blake Griffin prior to the game, and he began serving a four-game, team-imposed suspension for punching an assistant equipment manager in January.
Denver: Host Dallas on Monday night.
Los Angeles: Host Boston on Monday night.