Published March 06, 2011
LOS ANGELES – Rookie Blake Griffin had 18 points, 12 rebounds and a career high nine assists and the Los Angeles Clippers overcame yet another injury to leading scorer Eric Gordon to beat the Denver Nuggets 100-94 on Saturday night.
Eric Bledsoe scored 15 of his career-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, to help the Clippers win their first two games this month, equaling their victory total for February, when they were 2-12.
Newly acquired Mo Williams had 17 points.
Nene led Denver with 25 points and tied a season high with 14 rebounds. Kenyon Martin had 11 points before fouling out with 10.6 seconds remaining. The Nuggets are three games behind Oklahoma City for first place in the division.
Gordon left the game with 5:08 remaining in the second quarter after he was fouled by Timofey Mozgov on an attempted driving layup with the Clippers leading 43-29 and crashed to the floor — reaggravating the sprained right wrist and fractured bone chip that had sidelined him for 18 games.
Gordon wasn't able to make his free throws, which automatically made him ineligible for the rest of the game, and he was taken for X-rays.
It was Gordon's second game back in the lineup after missing the previous 18 with a sprained right wrist that had a small fracture in it. On Wednesday, he scored 24 points in a 106-103 victory that snapped Los Angeles' five-game losing streak.
Gordon, who helped the U.S. national team won the a gold medal at the world championship in Turkey last summer, entered the game averaging 24.1 points and 4.5 assists.
The Nuggets are 5-2 since trading Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks in a multiplayer trade that brought them Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari. Mozgov faced the Clippers at Staples Center for the first time since Nov. 20, when Griffin used the rookie center's head to balance himself with one hand as he dunked with the other during a 124-115 loss to the Knicks.
The Nuggets opened the third quarter with a 16-4 run that turned a 10-point halftime deficit into a 54-52 lead. Nene helped fuel the rally with eight points, including a layup that capped it with 6:51 left in the quarter.
The Clippers entered the fourth with a six-point lead and increased it to 78-75 when Eric Bledsoe hit a layup, then fed rookie Al-Farouq Aminu for an alley-oop dunk and drained a 3-pointer with 11:07 to play. Denver went on a 14-2 run capped by a 16-footer from Nene that brought the Nuggets within 80-79 with 7:32 remaining. But the Clippers stayed in front the rest of the way.
For a change, Griffin found himself on the passing end of an alley-oop dunk by Jordan that gave Los Angeles a 91-82 cushion with 3:40 left, and the Clippers sealed the victory with 3-pointers by Bledsoe and Williams in the final 2:40.
Nene enjoyed a clear advantage early on against Jordan in a matchup of 6-foot-11 centers, scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes with three dunks and a pair of layups. But his teammates shot a collective 6 for 20 in the first quarter, helping the Clippers take a 30-23 lead. Martin got a technical foul from referee Rodney Mott on his way to the bench after picking up his second personal with 4:44 left in the period.
Gallinari missed his fourth straight game after breaking the big toe on his left foot at Portland. Arron Afflalo left the game with 1:36 left in the first half because of a left hamstring strain.
Denver needs to win 13 of its remaining 19 games to make George Karl the first coach in franchise history with four consecutive 50-win seasons. Karl, one of six coaches in NBA history with at least 1,000 regular-season victories, had six straight 50-win seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics.
Notes: Denver committed 10 turnovers during the first three quarters — none of which were converted into points by the Clippers. ... Karl, who missed considerable time last season while battling throat and neck cancer, intimated before the game that his negotiations for a contract extension are winding down. His intention is to coach three more seasons. "I'm very optimistic. I think a lot of things have been settled," Karl said. "There are some i's to be dotted and some t's to be crossed, so I'm very hopeful that something will get done soon. They've been very fair and very up front, and we've had a good exchange about on the future with me being in Denver." ... Denver's 10-20 road record is the worst by any club with a winning overall record.