Now at full strength, Clippers, Nuggets set to duel

NBA Basketball
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The Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets should be at full strength for their Friday night showdown in Los Angeles.

Injuries have hampered both teams throughout the season but that hasn’t prevented them from being among the leaders in the Western Conference standings, where the Nuggets lead the Clippers by a game for second place, with the Los Angeles Lakers comfortably in first place.

The Clippers have been without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley for stretches, while the Nuggets have played without Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. However, all are expected to play Friday.

On Tuesday, the Nuggets pounded the Detroit Pistons 115-98 behind a career-high 29 points on 12-of-15 shooting by reserve forward Jerami Grant.

“I just rode (Grant) that whole second half,” Denver coach Michael Malone told The Denver Post. “He was terrific.”

Nikola Jokic and Murray scored 16 points apiece for the Nuggets, who shot 57.9 percent from the floor and won their eighth contest in their last 11 games. Murray also had eight assists. Porter contributed 13 points, hitting 6 of 9 shots, with eight rebounds.

The recent play of Millsap, who returned three weeks ago after missing 16 games with a knee injury, also pleased Malone. Although Millsap had nine points and four rebounds in 19 minutes against the Pistons, he scored 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in Sunday’s 128-116 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Since he’s come back … I think Paul’s been terrific,” Malone told the Post.

Millsap managed just two points and six rebounds in 27 minutes in a 113-101 loss to the Thunder on Feb. 21, but he has scored in double figures in four of the six contests since his return.

The Clippers earned a 102-92 victory over the host Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. Leonard had 24 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Clippers. Marcus Morris, who converted 4-of-8 3-pointers, added 18 points and Reggie Jackson chipped in 12.

Leonard also helped slow Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker, one of the NBA’s top scorers at 26.3 points per game. Booker missed 14 of 19 shots from the floor and seven of eight 3-pointers, finishing with 14 points.

“That was the plan. Kawhi is Kawhi,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s amazing with his reach, his hands, his foot movement, he’s very smart and extremely strong. I thought that set the tone for us, for sure.”

George struggled offensively for the second consecutive game since he returned from a strained hamstring. He managed 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 28 minutes against the Suns. In Monday’s rout of the Memphis Grizzlies, George had seven points in 21 minutes. He missed eight of 11 field goals, including 4 of 5 3-pointers.

The Nuggets captured a 114-104 win in the lone meeting this season on Jan. 12 at Denver. Jokic had 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Leonard scored 30 points. George was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

–Field Level Media

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