Clippers fall victim to Nuggets’ Barton, lose 129-114

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DENVER (AP) — Will Barton grew up playing pick-up basketball
in Baltimore until he couldn’t see because of darkness.

He brought that mentality to the NBA, and his indefatigable
style has helped him break out of a slump and keep the Denver
Nuggets in the playoff mix.

Barton scored a career-high 35 points, Nikola Jokic recorded
his fifth triple-double of the season and the Nuggets beat the
Los Angeles Clippers 129-114 on Thursday night to win their
fourth straight.

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Jokic finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists to
help lead Denver to a win in a matchup of short-handed teams.

The Clippers played without Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan,
who were left back in Los Angeles for the one-game trip. Denver
forwards Wilson Chandler (right groin) and Danilo Gallinari
(left knee bone bruise) also sat, but Kenneth Faried returned
after missing nine games with lower back spasms. Faried had 12
points in 18 minutes.

Without Gallinari and Chandler, Barton stepped in with his
second straight strong game after an extended slump. He played
17 straight minutes in the first half and nearly 19 consecutive
minutes in the second half and still hit 12 of 18 shots.

“I’m a baller,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who will play
5-on-5 in the gym all day until someone quits. That’s who I’ve
been my whole life. This can go on forever if it’s up to me.”

Chris Paul had 18 points and 14 assists, J.J. Redick scored a
team-high 22 points and Austin Rivers had 17 for the Clippers,
who have lost three straight.

Paul criticized the Clippers’ subpar defense during their tough
stretch.

“That’s on us,” he said. “We’ve got to give more effort, be
better all around.”

The Nuggets led by as many as 15 in the first half and 13 at
the break, but the Clippers quickly cut it to six in the third
quarter.

Barton, who scored 13 points in the second quarter, ended the
third with nine points in the final 56 seconds to give Denver a
103-80 lead heading into the fourth.

The advantage grew to as much as 25 and the Clippers never
threatened. Barton’s seventh 3-pointer, which tied a career
high, capped a 20-point half for the guard.

“The team needed me to step up and that’s all I wanted to do,”
Barton said. “We know what we’re trying to get to, trying to
make that push, so all I’m focused on is doing whatever I’ve
got to do to win games.”

TIP-INS

Clippers: Griffin has missed 21 games this season, 19 of which
are related to his right knee. The other two are for rest.

Nuggets: Gary Harris finished with 17 points. … Coach Michael
Malone doesn’t think Chandler and Gallinari will be out for the
long term. “I think it’s about coming to grips with the pain
and becoming confident enough to play with that,” he said.

GOOD ADVICE

The Clippers made the decision to leave home Griffin and Jordan
before Wednesday’s loss to Milwaukee, but Malone was asked
before Thursday’s tip how he found out that the two big men
were out.

“I called up Doc (Rivers) after the game last night and said,
`Tough loss to Milwaukee, guys look tired and why don’t you
keep them home,'” Malone joked. “One of my assistant coaches
texted me after the game, and listening to the postgame
comments that Doc had mentioned he was going to leave them
home.”

TRAVELING MAN

Jordan had played in every game this season, was busy with
All-Star weekend and has been flying back and forth to his home
in Houston to deal with a family issue, so Rivers told the
center he wasn’t going to play against Denver.

“I didn’t pose it as a question,” Rivers said. “I thought that
was a better way of doing that. He’s had no rest all year, and
he went through the All-Star weekend, and he enjoyed that whole
weekend, if I know my DJ. He’s done more travel than us these
past two weeks, which is virtually impossible.”

UP NEXT

Clippers: Host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.

Nuggets: Host the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

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