Bench powers Clippers to 14th straight win
When they finally got their turn, the Clippers rolled to a 112-100 win in front of 19,346 at Staples Center, extending their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games.
At 22-6, the Clippers boast the NBA's best record. At the rate they're going, they will be angling for a spot in the primetime Christmas game next season rather than working the late shift.
But that's a battle for a different day.
For now they're just happy to keep their winning streak alive as they push toward the best season in franchise history -- opening eyes around the league in the process.
The key was a 42-point second-quarter explosion in which the Clippers outscored the Nuggets by 20. Backup forward Matt Barnes scored 12 of his 20 points in the period.
As usual, the Clippers' bench did much of the heavy lifting, outscoring the team's starters 64-48. In addition to Barnes' contributions, reserve guard Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 22 points, and Eric Bledsoe came off the bench to add 12 points.
When the Oklahoma City Thunder lost Tuesday to the Miami Heat, and then the Clippers won their game, Los Angeles moved to the top of the league standings.
"That's not really even on our radar," Crawford said. "We just want to play good basketball, continue what we're doing and see how far that takes us."
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro agreed.
"It's nice, but it's Christmas and we have a long way to go," Del Negro said. "There's a lot of games to play and a lot of improving to do."
The bench production was more than enough support for starters Chris Paul, who had 14 points and eight assists, and Blake Griffin, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.
"I always tell people I wish they can see our practices because they're so intense between (the starters and reserves)," Paul said. "We have the ultimate confidence in our bench. Whether we have the lead or not, we know they'll come in and get the job done."
Nuggets coach George Karl concurred.
"There are some times when their bench is as good as their starters," Karl said. "They're playing with a lot of confidence."
The Nuggets twice climbed to within nine points in the third quarter but could not draw any closer, eventually succumbing to the Clippers' versatile attack.
"They made a run in the third, and we were able to withstand that," Del Negro said.
Only a late Denver rally resulted in the score finishing as close as it did.
"It was like a layup drill out there for them," Del Negro said. "But we had such a big second quarter and took control of the game then. ...
"I did not like the way we finished the game, I can tell you that. The players know it. I thought we were very sloppy at the end of the fourth quarter."
Center Kosta Koufos led the Nuggets with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Ty Lawson added 15 points and five assists.
Jordan Hamilton had 16 points off the bench for the Nuggets, who also got 12 points from Andre Miller.
"I think our intensity was fine, we played hard," Karl said. "We didn't always play smart."
The Clippers, though, are playing as well as any team in the league.
"We haven't reached our potential yet," center DeAndre Jordan said. "We still have some guys who are out or injured, so when we get those guys back, we'll be even deeper and better. The sky is the limit for this team."
NOTES: The Clippers' franchise-record winning streak includes a franchise-best six consecutive wins on the road. Entering play Tuesday, they'd held eight consecutive opponents to less than 43 percent shooting, and their average margin of victory during the winning streak was 13 points. ... In a scheduling oddity, the Nuggets played the Clippers in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, and they will host the Lakers in Denver on Wednesday. The Lakers played in Staples Center earlier Tuesday and left for Denver immediately after -- easily beating the Nuggets there and getting a decent night's rest. ... Lawson, who missed the second half of Denver's game Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats with an Achilles injury, was back in the starting lineup Tuesday. ... Denver has a 7-13 record away from home, its last road win coming against the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 16.
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