Nuggets regain control of playoff destiny, Clippers eliminated

LOS ANGELES, USA – Will Barton scored 31 points as the Denver Nuggets kept their playoffs hopes alive with a 134-115 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, April 7. 

Nikola Jokic finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Nuggets won their 5th straight to move into a tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves for 8th place in the Western Conference with two games to play. Both teams are 45-35.

The BEST from Nikola Jokic's (23 PTS, 11 REB, 11 AST) 9th triple-double of the year! #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/SNfLQEj0Xw — NBA (@NBA) April 7, 2018

"At this time of the year, it's all about finding a way to get wins," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said.

"We're playing 'Get-It-Done' basketball. We're getting it done. Going into tonight, we'd been playing good defense. We controlled the game, won all 4 quarters, another big step in the right direction."

With the offense leading the way some nights and the defense on others, the Nuggets have regained control of their playoff destiny.

They will reach the postseason if they win their last two NBA games. The Nuggets finish the regular season at home against Portland on Monday night, April 9. 

On Saturday, Denver started quickly on the attack, making 10 of their first 12 shots.

"I think overall -- offensively, defensively, controlling our turnovers -- I think we're playing overall our best basketball," Paul Millsap said. "Not our best offense we've played all year, not necessarily our best defense, but to be a good team you have to have balance."

The stage is now set for the Nuggets' season-ending game against the Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Wednesday, April 11. Minnesota, which holds the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, hosts Memphis on Monday.

"Our guys have really taken that to heart," Malone said. "There's a belief in that locker room, a lot of positivity. I think we're all in, 100 percent, believing in each other."

The loss eliminated the struggling Clippers from the postseason race as they lost for the 4th time in the past 5 games.

The loss ends a string of 6 straight postseason appearances for the Clippers.

"I don't think I have been more proud of a group, maybe ever, than I have been of this group," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

Win streak snapped 

Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook and Paul George combined for 48 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled away in the 4th quarter to beat the Houston Rockets, 108-102.

Oklahoma City was behind by one point with 7 minutes to go before going on an 11-0 burst. 

The host Rockets scored 5 straight points with less than a minute left to get within 5, but George made two free throws to clinch the win and snap Houston's 20-game home win streak.

The Thunder are battling with a number of teams for the final playoff berths in the Western Conference. 

Carmelo Anthony tallied 22 points for the Thunder, including some clutch 3-pointers.

James Harden had 26 and Chris Paul chipped in 17 points for the Rockets in the loss.

In Oakland, Anthony Davis carried the load down the stretch en route to 34 points as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a 10-game losing streak to Golden State with a 126-120 win over the Warriors.

Rappler.com