Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 3)

Series starts 11/2

Game 1: Thursday, November 2nd
Game 2: Sunday, November 26th
Game 3: Saturday, April 7th

Nuggets 95

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Clippers 96

(1-1, 1-0 home)

    Coverage: TNT

    7:30 PM ET, November 2, 2006

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    DEN 24 24 22 2595
    LAC 18 31 16 3196

    Top Performers

    Den: M. Camby 16 Pts, 18 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk

    LAC: S. Cassell 35 Pts, 6 Reb, 6 Ast

    Cassell's free throws beat Nuggets, cap 35-point night

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers were sloppy with the ball and they still have plenty of kinks to work out.

    For the final 6:44, though, they were good enough.

    Sam Cassell scored 35 points and hit a pair of free throws with 12 seconds remaining Thursday night to help Los Angeles win its home opener, 96-95 over the Denver Nuggets.

    "I'm pleased with what we were able to do down the stretch in the fourth quarter, both offensively and defensively," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We've got to try and build on it."

    The Nuggets, opening their season, were without star Carmelo Anthony most of the second half. He was ejected after drawing two technicals in a three-minute span early in the third quarter.

    "We could have done it. We lost 'Melo, but we were still in the game. It hurt us not having him in there," said Denver's Kenyon Martin, who had nine points and 10 rebounds.

    Los Angeles rallied from an 82-72 deficit midway through the final quarter, with Cassell scoring 14 in the period and Tim Thomas making three 3-pointers in the final 2:38 of his first home game for the Clippers.

    Thomas, signed as a free agent during the offseason, came off the bench and shot 5-of-11 from 3-point range to finish with 21 points.

    Marcus Camby had 16 points and 18 rebounds for Denver, and J.R. Smith led the Nuggets with 21 points.

    A 20-footer by Denver's Earl Boykins bounced off the rim, and the Clippers rebounded as time expired.

    Cassell's free throws came only 6 seconds after a costly turnover in the backcourt.

    Smith bumped into Cassell after the Clippers' guard had taken the inbounds pass, but no foul was called. Cassell, off balance, couldn't control the ball and Smith grabbed it and drove for a layup that gave Denver a 95-94 lead with 18 seconds remaining.

    The 37-year-old Cassell then took an off-balance jumper that missed, but Yakhouba Diawara was whistled for fouling him on the shot and Cassell made the decisive free throws.

    Los Angeles eliminated the Nuggets in the opening round of the playoffs last season, the first postseason series win for the Clippers franchise in 30 years.

    When Anthony left, angrily pulling his jersey off and tossing it into the air as he walked down the hall to the locker room, the Clippers were up 56-54 with 8:22 left in the third. He was the Nuggets' leading scorer at the time with 15 points, all in the first half.

    He drew his first technical after he was called for a foul 45 seconds into the third period, then was tossed shortly afterward for arguing a charging call against him -- his fourth personal foul of the game.

    "Defensively, we didn't have to rotate as much because he's such a big body for our 2s and 3s to guard that we have to help so much on him," said the Clippers' Elton Brand, who took just nine shots and scored eight points. "He's also one of their best shooters -- mid-range and long-range.

    "So defensively, we tried to get him in foul trouble and I think that's what helped frustrate him a little bit."

    Anthony was not available for comment after the game.

    The NBA, trying to eliminate complaints and other reactions after calls, is clamping down on such behavior this season. There is no new rule, but players and coaches were alerted during the preseason that such reactions would no longer be tolerated.

    Game notes

    Detroit's Rasheed Wallace and Sacramento's Mike Bibby were ejected Wednesday night for their reactions to calls. ... The Clippers took the regular-season series 3-1 last season, then eliminated the Nuggets in five games of their first-round playoff matchup.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 95 96
    FGM-FGA 34-88 (.386) 35-82 (.427)
    3PM-3PA 4-23 (.174) 7-19 (.368)
    FTM-FTA 23-30 (.767) 19-26 (.731)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-56 5-38
    Assists 24 20
    Turnovers 19 19
    Steals 9 5
    Blocks 6 6
    Fast Break Points 14 4
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 27 (3/0) 26 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 10 7

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Marcus Camby Camby
    Points: 16
    Reb: 18
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 4
    Sam Cassell Cassell
    Points: 35
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0