Both Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) led thier teams with 24 points and eight rebounds (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

Despite having a competitive first half, The Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Denver Nuggets 115-103. Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard led the team in scoring with 24 points and eight rebounds. Denver guard Jamal Murray also led his team with 24 points and eight rebounds.

“I think the effort is there, the execution part wasn’t in that second half. Just coming out of timeouts, having the turnovers,” Leonard said. “Just making sure we don’t have those careless turnovers and we take care of the ball and have a chance to shoot it at the rim.”

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was sidelined for the game on injury management.

Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) defends Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

“It’s different with everybody, [Jokic is] so diverse with his passing and finding guys but we got a lot of guys in play,” Murray said. “[Michael Porter Jr.] stepped up today, [DeAndre Jordan] played great … everybody stepped up and they really worked.”

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The Clippers’ depth was an asset throughout the first half. As Leonard scored 10 points in the first quarter, the second unit combined for 11 points. Leonard has been seeing more playing time in recent games.

As the Nuggets reserved came into the game, the Clippers found more opportunities on offense. Guard Norman Powell kept the Clippers competitive, giving the Clippers 10 points in the second quarter. Powell ultimately scored 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists.

Clippers guard John Wall (11) scored 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists against the Nuggets (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

By halftime, the Clippers were up 58-57. As Leonard presented problems for the Nuggets, Denver’s box defense pestered the Clippers.

“They were running a lot of pick and rolls trying to find the matchup that they liked, let [Leonard] go to work on that right block,” said Nuggets head coach Mike Malone. “The answer was let’s go zone, try to pack it in, kill their [isolation] one-on-one game and just take away [Leonard’s] ability to iso-dominate on the right side of the floor.”

The game remained close until the third quarter when the Nuggets made a nine-point run. Denver benefited from the Clippers’ turnovers and shot with accuracy. Los Angeles guard Terance Mann noted how they have trouble maintaining their offensive rhythm, bringing up their 108-112 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on January 8.

“We play so many good quarters, in the Atlanta game too … and then we have those lapses in the third, the late third going into the fourth,” Mann said. “It’s tough to win games like that, especially against the number one team in the west.”

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue noticed how players lacked pace and care for the ball.

Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) scored 17 points and five rebounds against the Clippers (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

“Without [Jokic] in the game, they really play faster. We can’t have 11 turnovers for 19 points and then the discipline of playing faster in half court,” Lue said. “I thought we walked around to our spots and got to the offense late so it’s hard to score when you’re doing that.”

This matchup marked the return of center DeAndre Jordan who started for the Nuggets. Jordan played for the Clippers for 10 seasons. He finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, and three assists.

“This will always be home for me,” Jordan said. “I always have a good time playing against these guys, in front of the fans and with people I have grown to love.”

The Clippers will host the Houston Rockets on Sunday, January 15 at noon.