- Associated Press - Saturday, January 21, 2017

DENVER (AP) - The short-handed Los Angeles Clippers were no match for a Denver Nuggets team in the midst of perhaps its best stretch of the season.

Nikola Jokic scored 19 points and Denver beat the Clippers 123-98 on Saturday night for its fourth win in five games. Denver has scored more than 120 points in each victory during that span.

“We’re playing together,” Jokic said. “We’re sharing the ball and our defense today was outstanding. We’re trying to help each other. We’re just starting to play more together.”

Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton and Wilson Chandler added 18 points apiece for the Nuggets.

The Clippers, meanwhile, have lost two games in a row since opening January with seven consecutive wins and fell to 2-7 this season when playing without both Chris Paul (thumb injury) and Blake Griffin (right knee).

“I think the biggest thing is we need to compete no matter who is on the floor,” Clippers guard Austin Rivers said. “It doesn’t matter who is out, we’ve just got to compete. I think we did it to start, but after a couple bad things happened to us, we let it mess with us.”

Gallinari said the Clippers are a tough team to contend with even without Griffin and Paul.

“They’re a different team, no doubt, but at the same time, with Raymond Felton and other guys that stepped up, they still have a very good team with a lot of veterans and a lot of experience,” Gallinari said. “They’re still dangerous even without those two great players.”

Marreese Speights had 18 points to lead the Clippers. Rivers added 16 points and DeAndre Jordan had 13 rebounds to go with his 14 points.

Denver, which never trailed, led by as many as 17 points in the first half and was up 59-45 at the break. Kenneth Faried had 11 of his 13 points in the first two quarters.

The Clippers cut it to 61-53 on a layup by Rivers early in the third quarter but the Nuggets outscored the Clippers 34-18 during the rest of the period. Gallinari capped the surge with a 3-pointer as the period ended, allowing the Nuggets to take a 95-71 lead into the fourth quarter.

Chandler then scored seven straight points for the Nuggets, including a 3-pointer, as Denver stretched its lead to 29 points in the opening minutes of the final period to put the game out of reach.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Paul is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks because of the ligament tear in his left thumb, which he sustained earlier this week. … Griffin has missed 17 games since undergoing a procedure on his right knee but is getting close to a return.

Nuggets: G Gary Harris missed a second consecutive game because of an ankle injury. … Gallinari (ankle) and F Darrell Arthur (knee) were both back in action after missing the previous game against San Antonio. … Jokic, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, has a double-double in 13 of his last 20 games.

SOMETHING TO PROVE

“Blake is coming back, so that will help but that shouldn’t matter though. We have a really good team whether (Chris Paul) plays or not. We have a good team and I think we are going to prove that.” - Austin Rivers, on the Clippers‘ outlook.

UP NEXT

Clippers: Continue a five-game road trip Monday at Atlanta.

Nuggets: Complete a back-to-back set Sunday at Minnesota.

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