Two of the best Los Angeles Clippers in recent memory caught fire on Monday night at Crypto.com Arena, not only turning back the clock but torching their old team in a gusty 113-104 Denver Nuggets win.
Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan channeled the stars they were filling in for and shamed four future Hall of Famers in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden and Russell Westbrook on Monday. Jackson, who point guarded the Clippers’ most recent deep playoff run with some of those stars, poured in 35 points on 19 shots, dished 13 assists and grabbed five rebounds over 40 minutes. Jordan, who is arguably the best player in Clippers history, scored 21 points on 11 shots, snagged 13 rebounds and dimed five helpers.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray would have been happy to put up those numbers let alone get the results Denver got led by the spelling veterans.
“Nine years in there are quite a few examples of games like this that you can reference,” Micheal Malone said postgame. “Second night of a back-to-back, like KCP said, ‘superstars out, Nuggets roll.’ No Jamal, no Aaron (Gordon), no Nikola. We struggle to win games on the road when healthy and for us to come and play the way we did, Reggie was incredible…when you can win games like this it speaks to your depth and belief.”
Jackson’s night was arguably just as productive as any Leonard, George, Harden or Westbrook have had in their careers. Big Government was the first NBA player in 55 years with at least 35 points, 13 helpers and five boards on 78% shooting. The last to best Jackson’s Monday night? The man Jokic constantly pens his name over—Wilt Chamberlain. Jackson was also just the fourth player, joining Jokic and two All-NBA First Teamers in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Shai Gilgeous Alexander, to record similar stats in a contest this decade.
Not only is every matchup against the Clippers personal for Jackson because he was traded to be cut by them last season—but it’s always extra in playing Westbrook. The former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates famously beefed there, forcing the backup point Jackson to be shipped to Detroit. And the Clippers moves last spring came in part to send Jackson away to clear a spot for Westbrook.
“I challenge Reggie Jackson to tell himself in his mind that he’s playing the Clippers every game,” Malone said. He laughed last week about how Jackson always seems to be at his best against his former teams after the point guard helped throttle Detirot without Jokic.
Jackson was by far the most impactful player in the game, as the Nuggets outscored the Clippers by 25 when he was in. And Denver did most of that work in the fourth quarter, beating Los Angeles in the final frame 36-16. It was just the 13th time in team history and fourth time on the road Denver outscored an opponent by 20 in the final period and the Nuggets were just 16-746 all time when trailing by 11 or more points after three quarters.
At game’s end, Westbrook was beefing with a fan on the side as play kept on. He, plus his star three teammates, finished with 62 points on 55 shots. Jackson and Jordan scored 56, taking 30 attempts.
The Nuggets were a team against a collection of stars a night after their star marveled in topping the Spurs. Giving Joker the night off for back pain, his first rest of the year, Denver relied on young players—using Peyton Watson to close and getting big moments from Julian Strawther.
“They were patient for eight years with me, I think we can wait a few games for the young players,” Jokic said Sunday night regarding young players and the Nuggets road struggles.
A night later Malone said, “For Peyton Watson to finish a close game on the road, that’s only going to help his confidence. For Julian Strawther to be out there in the fourth when the game hangs in the balance is going to help his confidence. Experience is the best teacher, those guys are getting some great experience.”
The Nuggets have now won four games on the road, funny enough two have basically come without Joker. Denver’s up to 12-6, which is the most wins in the west. They’re back on Wednesday for a test against a Rockets team that has beaten them twice before heading off on a five-game road trip. Meanwhile, the Clippers are 7-9 and sit outside of the playoff picture. Los Angeles has lost eight straight to Denver and is 2-14 against the Nuggets since going ahead 3-1 in 2020’s bubble. Like that time, Monday’s game ended with George bricking a key three—just as he did in Denver two weeks ago.