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Clippers-Nuggets Preview

Clippers-Nuggets Preview
The Denver Nuggets won convincingly their last time out, but eight losses in their last 12 games is hardly the type of play that's going to put them over the top in a tight Northwest Division race.

A visit from the reeling Los Angeles Clippers might be just the place to start a winning streak.

The Nuggets will try to make it six wins in a row over the Clippers on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center, while Los Angeles will be looking to snap a six-game slide that included an almost unfathomable loss in their latest contest.

Denver (41-25) is in a crowded three-team race for the Northwest title along with Utah and Portland, but the recent play of coach George Karl's team has hardly resembled a division champion.

The Nuggets had dropped three in a row and eight of 11 to fall out of first place for the first time since December heading into a home game against Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Karl used eight players with Kenyon Martin sitting out due to a lower back strain, and seven scored in double figures in a 112-99 win. The one who didn't, backup guard Anthony Carter, had a season-high 12 assists in his return after missing four games with a sore left hip.

"It was good to have A.C. back," said Linas Kleiza, who had 20 points off the bench. "He creates a lot of easy opportunities."

Oklahoma City was the first of five straight teams the Nuggets will face that own a losing record, and with six consecutive defeats the Clippers (15-49) are playing the worst of any of them.

Karl, though, isn't sure playing struggling clubs is any sort of a breather.

"It's not going to be easy," he said. "A lot of these teams are really playing with no stress and no pressure, and we're playing with probably the most stress and most pressure we've had all year long."

While the Nuggets have dealt with injuries to Carter and Martin recently and Carmelo Anthony in January, Los Angeles has been playing without key players all season.

On Tuesday night against Cleveland, however, center Chris Kaman returned after missing most of the season with a foot injury. That gave the Clippers - who also had the oft-injured Baron Davis and Zach Randolph healthy - their full complement of stars for the first time since a 106-105 loss to Denver on Nov. 26, Randolph's first game after being traded from New York.

Everything looked good as Los Angeles led the Eastern Conference-best Cavaliers by 19 with 11 minutes remaining, but suddenly everything fell apart. LeBron James took over down the stretch and the Clippers were outscored 35-14 in the fourth on their way to an 87-83 loss.

"I probably played the guys who were out due to injury a little too much, and it showed that they were unconditioned," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "It is disappointing to play as well as we did in the first three quarters and not finish the game strong."

Randolph had 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for his second straight double-double after missing two games following the death of his father. He'll miss Saturday's game as well as he attends the funeral.

That will put more pressure on Kaman and former Nugget Marcus Camby to produce inside. Camby had 17 points and 10 boards in the November loss, the Clippers' fifth straight to Denver.

Anthony, who's averaged 26.6 points in his last five games, has scored 32.0 per game in his last three against Los Angeles.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 13, 2009


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