first_imgLOS ANGELES >> The Clippers got off to a fast start, responded when challenged, and romped to a simple 112-91 triumph over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, welcoming Matt Barnes back to the court with a comprehensive performance.Blake Griffin and Chris Paul contributed their customary double-doubles and Barnes saw his first action in more than a month as the Clippers (19-9) matched their season-best winning streak before a sellout crowd of 19,129 at Staples Center, making it four in a row for the third time this year.Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 6 of 12 beyond the 3-point arc, and the Pacific Division leaders’ extraordinary defense left the struggling Nuggets (14-12) little chance to compete.Griffin scored 24 points and pulled down 16 rebounds for his 19th double-double of the season, and Paul had 10 points and 11 assists for his 21st as L.A. raced to an 11-2 lead barely two minutes after tipoff, extended it to 19 before halftime, then pulled away — behind three third-quarter 3-pointers from Crawford — after Denver climbed within six points shortly after the break. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Barnes saw his first action since Nov. 18, coming on to a rousing ovation with 3:02 to go in the first quarter, sporting goggles that he “didn’t like — I got elbowed, and the goggles gave me a bruise.”He needed a few minutes to adjust after missing the previous 16 games after he suffered a torn retina in his left eye, requiring three surgeries, a month ago against Memphis, but got stronger as the game went on, making 5 of 12 shots and three 3-pointers for 13 points, with three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.“It felt good,” said Barnes, who dealt with a series of ailments before the eye injury. “It’s been hard for me to catch a rhythm all season, you know, being hurt (in the) summertime, training camp, beginning of the season, up to now. So it’s really been a mental season for me so far, kind of seeing where I can help the team when I get back. Tonight, I tried to do a little bit of that.”Barnes, who was in uniform but did not play Wednesday against the Pelicans, turned the ball over the first time he tried to penetrate, then blocked a Jordan Hamilton shot. He hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter and scored after grabbing a loose ball after a Griffin miss in the final minute of the half, both restoring double-digit leads. He made 3 of 6 attempts in the second half.“Overall, he was really good, and he just gives us something extra,” Rivers said. “You can see it. He gives us the toughness, the cutting, the basketball IQ. For a guy that missed that amount of days — to me, he missed basically the whole year, because he’s only played and then in-and-out. I thought that was the best he has looked since he’s been with us because of his rhythm. He had pretty good rhythm and his shot looked good. He didn’t look rusty, so that is good.”Said Griffin: “Love having him back. He’s a guy that has a positive impact, even if he doesn’t score a basket. Just the way he cuts offensively and the way he plays defensively, and just his experience. Having a veteran guy out there who always plays hard is great for us.”DeAndre Jordan had a dozen rebounds for L.A. Timofey Mozgov scored 15 points, Lawson had 13 points and six assists in 33 minutes, and Nate Robinson scored 11 for the Nuggets.center_img “We said we didn’t feel like we had the right energy or played with the right spirit against New Orleans (in a victory Wednesday night), and we have a back-to-back tonight and (Sunday evening against Minnesota),” said Paul, who had four assists in the first 3½ minutes and a half-dozen a little more midway through the first quarter. “So we wanted to come out and try to put them away, and I think we did that.”Wilson Chandler scored 19 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting but missed all four of his second-half shots for the Nuggets, whose cause wasn’t helped by point guard Ty Lawson’s flu-triggered fatigue, which limited him to just two second-half minutes, nor power forward Kenneth Faried’s departure after rolling his left ankle just 3:15 into the game.Denver pulled within six points twice — at 56-50 and 58-52 — but a 19-8 spree over the final 8½ minutes of the third quarter boosted the Clippers’ lead to 19 points, and they led by as many as 23 in the fourth quarter.L.A.’s defensive play was pivotal. The Nuggets were held to only 35.2 percent shooting — and just 31 percent before making 9 of 17 fourth-quarter shots.“What I like the most was the transition defense,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I think that they had nine points in transitions. That is what they do so well: They come down, spread the floor, they beat you to the basket. … And I thought we did a great job taking that away and making them run their half-court [offense], which was great for us.”last_img

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