Clippers’ airplane struck by lightning earlier than OT loss to Nuggets

The wounds from Friday’s double-overtime loss had been nonetheless recent when the Clippers climbed aboard their jet in Los Angeles round midday Saturday.

Only about 13 hours earlier, their leads of 14 within the fourth quarter’s last minutes, six in time beyond regulation and 6 once more in double time beyond regulation had all dissolved right into a bitter loss to a Sacramento group it wanted to maintain tempo with within the Western Conference standings.

Top-seeded Denver awaited. But inside a minute of the group’s airplane taking off, a bolt of lightning struck it, as workers members felt the engines momentarily quiet earlier than revving up for a steep climb into the clouds. When everybody bought off in Denver, a noticeable splotch alongside the tail, the location of the strike, had been stripped of its paint.

What adopted Sunday evening in Ball Arena was one other jarring takeoff and bumpy trip, a 134-124 time beyond regulation loss to the Nuggets capping a bitter 48 hours whose occasions nobody noticed coming.

Trailing by 18 to the West’s high group inside simply the primary quarter, the Clippers pulled inside 4 within the third quarter, just for a flagrant foul start a disastrous stretch. Two minutes later, their deficit was 14.

Using a patchwork of lineups — with beginning middle Ivica Zubac lacking his second consecutive recreation — the Clippers claimed their first lead with solely 4 minutes remaining in regulation on a winding drive by Paul George that resulted in a free throw, as properly.

When the Clippers couldn’t corral the rebound from a deep heave by Jamal Murray to beat a virtually expired shot clock, the Nuggets whipped the cross to Michael Porter Jr. for a go-ahead three-pointer with 27 seconds to play and a 120-118 lead.

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George, who had missed two essential free throws Friday once more Sacramento, made two free throws to pressure a tie with 23 seconds left, then after a miss by Denver within the last seconds, threw a heave from previous half-court that swished – however the ball had been in his palms as the ultimate seconds ran off.

In time beyond regulation, the Clippers resilience fizzled, lacking all 5 of their pictures, their 4 factors derived from free throws solely.

Kawhi Leonard scored 33 factors, Paul George had 23 and Russell Westbrook scored 17, with 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists. But not like Friday, when coach Tyronn Lue stored Westbrook in throughout essential minutes of the fourth quarter and time beyond regulation, Westbrook didn’t play after testing with 1 minute 21 seconds to play within the third quarter.

With a brand new rotation, the Clippers couldn’t clear up a years-long downside of stopping Denver celebrity Nikola Jokic, who might be on his method to profitable the league’s most dear participant honor for a 3rd consecutive season. Without Zubac, the Clippers tried defending him with Mason Plumlee to start out, then at halftime switched to ahead Nicolas Batum, whose lengthy arms and guile have efficiently Jokic the ball and place he needs. But Jokic scored 40 factors with 17 rebounds and 10 assists, and 15 of his factors got here in fourth quarter and time beyond regulation.

The loss left the Clippers 33-30 and swept in all 4 video games towards Denver, which is 9-2 towards the Clippers since these groups’ assembly within the 2020 Western Conference semifinals.

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The drama began lengthy earlier than time beyond regulation.

Traded to Charlotte earlier than the NBA’s Feb. 9 commerce deadline in trade for Plumlee, earlier than being subsequently purchased out and signing with Denver as a free agent, former Clippers guard Reggie Jackson strode by Ball Arena safety three hours earlier than tipoff.

Wearing a down jacket and trucker hat, Jackson – who spent his highschool years in Colorado Springs — began a dialog with almost each staffer he handed, as was his customized with the Clippers.

Denver Nuggets middle Nikola Jokic drives to the basket between Clippers middle Mason Plumlee, left, and ahead Kawhi Leonard within the first half Sunday.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Right behind him by the world’s steel detector was Bones Hyland, who went from all-rookie final season with the Nuggets to dealt for second-round picks to the Clippers months later, a commerce precipitated when the group and rookie didn’t see eye-to-eye on his position.

Denver didn’t seem disillusioned about shedding Hyland to a convention competitor. Nuggets coach Michael Malone heaped reward on Clippers backup middle Mason Plumlee, himself a former Nugget, earlier than tipoff, citing his professionalism, however requested about Hyland, Malone answered with a curt “I wish him all the best” earlier than a group official ended Malone’s media availability.

In an period when NBA groups fete any returning gamers of notice with tribute movies, Hyland stared on the area’s suspended scoreboard through the first timeout break, however a digital welcome by no means arrived. Boos, nevertheless, did every time Hyland touched the ball. In distinction Jackson’s first look in Denver as a Nugget was met with a rousing applause and the public-address announcer’s message of “welcome back, baby!”

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Hyland had not performed Friday, Westbrook’s debut pushing the 22-year-old farther down the depth chart, however with 5 minutes left within the first quarter Hyland was inserted to harness his microwave scoring to tug the Clippers again from what had already been an 18-point deficit. Gone was the guts gesture Hyland had flashed to followers throughout warmups, changed by an icy stare towards one part of courtside followers after his first three-pointer, then one other glare towards the Nuggets’ teaching workers and bench after a second. The vitality was important, the Clippers’ 11 fast-break factors within the second quarter important to not permitting a repeat of Jan. 13, when Denver jumped forward by double digits shortly and had damaged the Clippers by halftime.

Hyland scored 10 factors, Jackson seven, however each had been finally subplots to the bigger story of what Malone additionally notably stated earlier than tipoff: That these groups, separated by three locations within the standings, had been nonetheless the identical, needing to ascertain their identities with the season’s last quarter remaining.