Clippers, Nuggets battle in playoff race
Clippers @ Nuggets
Tuesday, Feb. 27 @ 7:00 p.m. PT
TV: FOX Sports San Diego/Prime Ticket/ FOX Sports GO
The Los Angeles Clippers have played only two games in the past 13 days and have had the last four days off. It was supposed to be a time when they got healthy, but instead the Clippers are banged up heading into a key matchup in Denver on Tuesday night.
Starters Danilo Gallinari (bruised right hand) and Avery Bradley (sports hernia) are hurting and while Gallinari got some good news when an X-ray revealed no break, Bradley could miss some significant action.
It comes at a bad time for L.A. (31-27), which is ninth in the Western Conference and a game behind the Nuggets (33-27).
“Avery is going to be out for a little bit so we’re just going to have to figure out how long,” coach Doc Rivers told The Los Angeles Times. “Don’t know. It could be a week. It could be three weeks. But we don’t know yet.”
Bradley, who was acquired from Detroit in the trade that sent Blake Griffin to the Pistons, tried to practice last Tuesday but was in too much pain to finish the session.
“The bottom line is, it’s a tough injury to have,” Rivers told The Times. “It’s the same one that Jawun (Evans) has. And especially with what Avery does. He’s one of the top-five defensive players on the ball in the league and that’s all movement there. So, it’s a tough blow, but it is what it is.”
Gallinari’s status is day to day, which means he could play his first game in Denver since the Nuggets traded him to the Clippers last summer. The 6-foot-10 forward had a successful but injury-filled six-plus seasons with Denver, and with the Nuggets loading up on younger players and signing Paul Millsap in the offseason, he became expendable.
The Clippers are going up against a Denver team that has played well in February. The Nuggets are 7-2 in the month, with the only losses coming against Houston. The Rockets ended Denver’s four-game winning streak Sunday night, but the Nuggets took positives out of the way they battled from 17 down to make it a game in the final few minutes.
“I was proud of the way we fought, proud of the way we competed,” Denver coach Michael Malone said after the 114-109 loss. “That game could have gotten out of hand a few times, so I applaud our guys’ effort.”
Will Barton scored a team-high 25 and center Nikola Jokic had 21 points and 14 rebounds. He fell two assists shy of his fourth straight triple-double.
The good news for Denver is it is finished with the Rockets this season. The bad news is it plays 11 of its next 16 games on the road, where it has a record of 9-19. For a team trying to reach the postseason for the first time in five years, it is a tough stretch.
That puts extra meaning on beating L.A. and stretching its lead in the playoff race. Right after the loss to the Rockets the Nuggets were already looking ahead to playing the Clippers.
“We can’t get down,” guard Devin Harris said. “It’s just one game and we’ll come back and try to beat the Clippers.”