Nuggets stay alive, Clippers out

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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.
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Reuters

Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers hangs in the air as he passes around Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap during the first half of their NBA match at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday. The Nuggets won 134-115 to keep their playoff hopes alive while eliminating the Clippers from playoff contention.

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.

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

“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 four 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 tomorrow.

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. Minnesota, which holds the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, hosts Memphis tomorrow.

“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 per cent, believing in each other.”

Lou Williams scored 24 points for the Clippers while DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 17 rebounds.

The loss eliminated the struggling Clippers (42-38) from the postseason race as they lost for the fourth time in the past five games.

The loss ends a string of six 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.

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

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

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

The Thunder (46-34) 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.

Golden State star Kevin Durant scored 19 of his 41 points in the third quarter. Durant also finished with 10 rebounds and five assists.

Quinn Cook, who has been an admirable fill-in for the injured Stephen Curry after his promotion from the G League, added 21 points in the Warriors’ final regular-season home game.

Nikola Mirotic had 28 points for the Pelicans, and Rajon Rondo dished out 17 assists.

Elsewhere in the NBA, it was: Spurs 116, Trail Blazers 105; Bucks 115, Knicks 102; and Nets 124, Bulls 96

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