Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 3)

Series starts 1/3

Game 1: Monday, January 3rd
Game 2: Saturday, March 5th
Game 3: Friday, March 18th

Clippers 102

(15-15, 5-7 away)

Nuggets 98

(14-17, 10-7 home)

    Coverage: ALT

    7:00 PM ET, January 3, 2005

    Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

    1 2 3 4 T
    LAC 33 27 14 28102
    DEN 24 26 26 2298

    Top Performers

    LAC: C. Maggette 33 Pts, 11 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

    Den: N. Hilario 20 Pts, 13 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 Stl, 3 Blk

    Brunson's 3 salts it away for L.A.

    DENVER (AP) -- The shots kept clanging off the rim in the third quarter, the chances of winning seemingly bouncing away with each miss.

    But what surely would have led to a loss for the Los Angeles Clippers in the past was merely shrugged off this time. Maybe they really are getting better.

    Corey Maggette had 33 points and 11 rebounds, and Rick Brunson hit a key 3-pointer with 21 seconds left to lift the Clippers through some wild momentum swings to a 102-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

    The Clippers got off to a great start, then let the Nuggets back in it with a miserable third quarter. Then something strange happened: The Clippers kept their composure.

    Crashing in for offensive rebounds, hitting key shots and stifling the Nuggets with a zone defense, Los Angeles (15-15) pulled out its third win in four games after a 1-7 stretch, reaching .500 this late in the season for just the fourth time in 21 years.

    Not bad for a team, long ridiculed for its ineptitude, that got the job done without three key players -- Marko Jaric, Kerry Kittles and Shaun Livingston.

    "This is amazing," said Brunson, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. "We had the big lead in the first half, but in the NBA you know everybody makes runs. We kept our composure and fought it out at the end."

    The Nuggets did their best without injured center Marcus Camby (back) and guard Greg Buckner (groin) for the second straight game, turning what appeared to be a rout in the first half into a close game.

    Nene had 20 points and 13 rebounds with Kenyon Martin in foul trouble most of the game, and Carmelo Anthony had 21 points, though he was just 6-for-21 from the field. Andre Miller added 17 points, but he spent most of the fourth quarter watching from the bench.

    What hurt the Nuggets was rebounding. Los Angeles had a 49-34 advantage and had three on the offensive glass in the final 4½ minutes, including one to set up Brunson's crowd-quieting 3-pointer. Denver has lost 10 of 12 and has been only marginally better since Jeff Bzdelik was fired last week, going 1-2 under interim coach Michael Cooper.

    "It was effort," Anthony said. "Our offensive rebounding wasn't there tonight and that is something that we need to do better, is effort."

    Despite a miserable first half, Denver was still within 60-50 thanks in part to Miller's buzzer-beating 3-pointer from three steps inside halfcourt. The Nuggets finally got the lead -- their first of the game -- with 2:42 left in the third quarter, going up 70-69 on Anthony's two free throws.

    The Nuggets kept it close until the Clippers came up with the key plays down the stretch.

    Switching to a zone to keep Anthony from getting to the rim, Los Angeles forced Denver to miss 8-of-9 shots late in the fourth quarter.

    Mikki Moore put Los Angeles up 93-91 with a jump hook with 87 seconds left, then Brand swooped in to snare an offensive rebound with 40 seconds left. The Clippers stayed steady and worked the ball around the perimeter to Brunson, who calmly knocked down the 3-pointer from the corner.

    "I think some of our guys got fatigued, got run down, but down the stretch we executed well," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Rick Brunson hit some big shots."

    Game notes

    The Nuggets raised more than $14,000 from fans and Kroenke Enterprises employees Friday night for tsunami relief in South Asia. ... Brunson had some fun with scouts sitting along the baseline in the third quarter, yelling out "That was double-drag down" after a whistle.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 102 98
    FGM-FGA 32-72 (.444) 34-79 (.430)
    3PM-3PA 3-11 (.273) 5-16 (.313)
    FTM-FTA 35-42 (.833) 25-30 (.833)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-49 9-34
    Assists 20 20
    Turnovers 16 11
    Steals 6 10
    Blocks 6 6
    Fast Break Points 7 16
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (1/0) 31 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 18 4

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Corey Maggette Maggette
    Points: 33
    Reb: 11
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0
    Nene Hilario Hilario
    Points: 20
    Reb: 13
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 3