The Denver Nuggets put an ugly loss behind them with a statement win over the LA Clippers.
Nikola Jokic had 20 points and 15 rebounds as the Nuggets withstood a big rally to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 114-104 on Sunday night.
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This bounce-back performance was just what they needed to soothe their psyche after a clunker the night before against a struggling Cleveland squad.
"We looked like a totally different team less than 24 hours later," guard Monte Morris said.
The moral was easy to decipher. "We have to come to play against teams we're supposed to beat," Morris said. "Because we always show up against teams we know that can beat us."
Gary Harris showed signs of breaking out of a shooting slump by scoring 15 points but did not play late. He has been diligently working on his jumper after shooting 25.6 per cent over his last four games. He was 5-of-9 against the Clippers.
"When he makes shots, the guys need to chase him and it's a little different story," said Jokic.
Jamal Murray finished with 19 points and reserve Michael Porter Jr provided a spark by scoring 13. The defensive standout of the game was Jerami Grant, who had two big blocks on Leonard.
"A couple of great blocks at the rim you don't see very often against Kawhi," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
Denver had quite a sequence midway through the fourth when Will Barton blocked a shot and Jokic grabbed the rebound. He quickly threw it ahead to Barton, who then dished it off to Morris for a three-pointer. Denver was up 18 and seemingly cruising along before the Clippers made things interesting down the stretch.
"The focus was there. The energy was there," Jokic said. "It was a big victory for us."
Leonard finished with 30 points, while Lou Williams had 26 and Montrezl Harrell added 25. The Clippers played without star forward Paul George, who missed a second straight game with a strained left hamstring. Los Angeles dropped to 8-6 this season when George does not play.
Trailing by as many 20 points in the second half, Los Angeles had pulled within six with 1:11 remaining when Patrick Beverley was called for a foul on Jokic. After the Nuggets big man made a pair of free throws, Clippers coach Doc Rivers argued with official Nick Buchert. He was given two technical fouls and tossed from the game. Murray hit both free throws to restore some much-needed breathing room.
"Listen, coaches can lose their composure, so can officials," Rivers said. "There's no way I should have been thrown out of the game."
Rivers had simply reached his boiling point. He was still seething from a crucial call earlier in the quarter when Harrell got whistled for an offensive charge when he stepped in front of Grant as the Denver forward guarded Leonard.
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The Clippers were in the midst of a 10-0 run at the time.
"The pick was solid," Rivers said. "The bottom line is I shouldn't get a tech. That's No 1. That's on me."