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Nuggets fall to Clippers 103-96 in preseason opener

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 3, 2015

The Denver Nuggets opened up their preseason in Los Angeles against the Clippers with a new coach, a 19-year-old point guard, multiple new faces and after just three days of training camp. For the most part, the inexperience showed. The Clippers, who also have a slew of new additions to their own roster, controlled the game through three quarters and staved off a huge Nuggets fourth-quarter run (the Nuggets outscored the Clippers 31-19 in the fourth) to win their preseason opener, 103-96.

After a summer that was filled with talk about “pace” and how fast the Nuggets were going to play under new head coach Michael Malone, Denver came out running on all cylinders. It was a quick and frantic start, but not one Malone, who has preached efficiency over pure pace throughout the offseason, could have been thrilled about. The Nuggets shot just 29.2 percent in the first quarter with six turnovers, three of those from Mudiay and followed that up with an eight-turnover second quarter which put them behind 56-42 heading into the half.

The Clippers, who forced the Nuggets into 20 turnovers through three quarters led 84-65, but a massive 22-8 run to open the fourth against the Clippers reserves, pulled Denver back into the game and made this one thrilling down the stretch. Mudiay found his stroke from three late in the fourth, fellow rookie Nikola Jokic battled inside against a stout Clippers frontline, and Will Barton was able to get out in transition, but Denver simply ran out of time and answers in what will be viewed as an encouraging start to a new era of Nuggets basketball.

WHERE/WHEN

Staples Center, Los Angeles, California / Oct. 2, 2015 / Preseason Game No. 1

STAR OF THE GAME 

The main attraction tonight was Mudiay, but Denver’s most effective player throughout the game was reserve big man, Joffrey Lauvergne. The frenchman, who only averaged 11.2 minutes per game for the Nuggets last season, was the only big man that didn’t back down from the Clippers imposing front line. Lauvergne battled all night and finished with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. He played himself into consideration for the starting center spot, in Jusuf Nurkic’s absence, one that is surely up for grabs after J.J. Hickson’s disappointing night.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Lauvergne’s nifty up-and-under to get by Josh Smith.

Mudiay to Chandler to Jokic

Gary Harris’ steal and run out that drew a foul.

BY THE NUMBERS

(NBA.com)
(NBA.com)

As seen in the above box score: Darrell Arthur, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Miller all got the night off. Nick Johnson recorded a Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision as Erick Green received the fifth guard minutes in a crowded back-court. Nurkic is out as he continues to rehab from offseason patella tendon surgery (partial tear) on his left knee

LASTING IMPACT

For Denver, the storyline coming in was the rookie Mudiay, whose luck found him matched up with eight-time All-Star Chris Paul in his first professional game. Throughout the night Mudiay had his ups-and-downs. He was loose with the ball, turning it over eight times, but also showed signs of what makes him so special. The rookie was able to penetrate into the heart of the defense with ease, and kick the ball out to shooters eagerly waiting to pull the trigger. He showed the vision that was evident throughout summer league, finding cutters and pushing the ball ahead in transition. He even stepped back for a couple 3-pointers on a few different occasions, finally getting some to fall late in the fourth (3-7 from deep on the night). For a rookie, playing his first game against a top Western Conference team like the Clippers, Mudiay should be happy with his performance.

Nikola Jokic, the 20-year-old Serbian played admirably in his first NBA competition as well. The rookie was a +14 (the best +/- of any Denver player) in 23 minutes, flashed a physicality inside that he didn’t show in summer league and combined it with his touch around the hoop, which we knew he had. Jokic inserted his name into the ongoing competition for the starting center job with Nurkic out indefinitely.

I predicted earlier this week Malone would go with Hickson to start the preseason at center, a move he probably won’t make again. Hickson had a rough night, shooting just 1-7 from the field and tallied a -14 in just 19 minutes. Usually +/- isn’t the greatest individual stat to go by, but in tonight’s game, it was clear Hickson’s impact negatively impacted Denver. On a play early in the third quarter, Randy Foye somehow winds up on Blake Griffin down low. Hickson is guarding Jordan on this play, who’s not even in the picture yet and instead of sinking down to help the massively undersized Foye, Hickson simply stares and watches. It was a poor play from a night to forget from the veteran.

WHAT’S NEXT

Denver’s next preseason contest comes Tuesday, Oct. 6 in Dallas when the Nuggets take on the Mavericks. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. MST.

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