What would the night sky look like without stars?
More than likely, it would just be a black void, with tremendous loss of light.
The Los Angeles Clippers can relate.
Playing without their three leading scorers, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, the Clippers dropped their third straight game to a subpar team, 106-102, to the Denver Nuggets on Monday night at Staples Center.
"What can you do?" said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers after the game. "A lot of teams go through stretches like this, with injuries, there's nothing you can do, we just have to keep playing."
The loss of firepower was evident in the final score as the two teams met just five days ago, a game the Clippers won, 119-102.
In that game, their first without Griffin, Paul and Redick combined for 43 points and held the Nuggets starting backcourt to just three points on 1-of-15 shooting.
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Less than a week later, the same Nuggets roster scored 106 total points and the backcourt combined for 19 points, proving the value and importance of Paul and Redick in the Clippers lineup.
It was not a great brand of basketball by either team in the first half as both teams struggled from the field. Similar to their Christmas Day loss to the Lakers, the Clippers started to fade in the third quarter.
The Nuggets led by as many as 17 points in the third, but the Clippers clawed their way back and took a two-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter before building up a seven-point advantage midway through the quarter.
However, like a gnat, the Nuggets would not go away and they erased the deficit, taking a three-point lead with 2:30 remaining in the ballgame.
The Clippers self-combusted defensively down the stretch and Denver held on to secure the victory.
"We're tired of losing to be honest," said Jamal Crawford who made his first start of the season. "Our margin of error is gone."
Rookie Nikola Jokic lead the Nuggets with 24 points, draining two big shots from beyond the arc. Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points and Wil Barton chipped in 23 off the bench.
"He was good tonight. He's a good player," said Austin Rivers. "He had a great game. He hurt us. Him and Barton."
Jamal Crawford was inserted in the starting lineup for the first time this season and scored a team-high 24 points on 11-of-23 shooting. Austin Rivers scored 19 points starting at point guard in place of Raymond Felton who started the previous two games.
"We should have won that game," continued Rivers. "The momentum changed at the end of the game. It's crucial at the end of the game to get stops. We have to find a way to win. That's what I took from this."
Players of the Game:
Wil Barton: 23 points
Jamal Crawford: 24 points
Nikola Jokic: 24 points
1. Starless Night: Without their three leading scorers, the Los Angeles Clippers are a below average basketball team. They have lost three consecutive games to the minnows of the NBA Western Conference, the Mavericks, Lakers and Nuggets. Those three teams are a combined 33-62 this season.
This is basically a preview of what the Clippers would be like if Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick leave in free agency this summer — Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) December 27, 2016
2. Sliding Scale: At their current pace, the Clippers cannot continue to tread water as they have fallen from third to fourth in the Western Conference standings and are only two games ahead of the Thunder and Grizzlies.
��Houston Rockets are currently the #3 seed in the Western Conference — Berto Ratatouille ✪ (@Mr_AlbieShore) December 27, 2016
3. What a Difference a Day Makes: Five days ago, the Los Angeles Clippers starting backcourt of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick held the Denver Nuggets backcourt of Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris to just three points. On Monday, the duo scored 19 points, proving the importance defensively of Paul and Redick in the starting lineup.
Nuggets (13-18): Denver returns to the Mile High City on Wednesday to host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Clippers (22-11): Los Angeles kicks off a three-game road trip with a stop in New Orleans on Wednesday night at 5:00 PM PST.
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