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Nuggets top Clippers, move into first alone in West

January 13, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) moves the ball against Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) during the first half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Murray recorded 24 points and eight rebounds and the Denver Nuggets thrived despite the absence of Nikola Jokic to notch a 115-103 victory over the host Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

Michael Porter Jr. scored 22 points and Aaron Gordon added 17 for the Nuggets, who won their fifth straight game and earned their 15th victory in the past 18. Jokic, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, sat out due to a wrist injury on a night when the Nuggets took over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.

The victory was Denver’s eighth in the past nine meetings with the Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard registered 24 points and eight rebounds but couldn’t prevent Los Angeles from losing for the seventh time in the past eight games. Norman Powell had 18 points, and Marcus Morris Sr. and John Wall each scored 16.

The Clippers were without Paul George (hamstring) for the fourth straight game and Luke Kennard (calf) for the third game in a row.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 14 points for Denver, which shot 50 percent from the field and was 14 of 33 (42.4 percent) from 3-point range.

The Clippers hit on 47.1 percent of their shots, including 10 of 29 (34.5 percent) from behind the arc. Los Angeles committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter after having just five entering the stanza.

Los Angeles trailed by two with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter before Denver went on a 10-0 run that included a 3-pointer from Murray, a three-point play from Bruce Brown and a trey from Gordon. Brown split two free throws with 5:34 remaining to cap the surge as the Nuggets took a 104-92 lead.

Terance Mann drained a 3-pointer to pull the Clippers within 110-103 with 1:41 left. However, Porter hit two free throws with 1:18 to go and Caldwell-Pope drilled a trey with 16.6 seconds remaining to seal it.

Leonard scored 14 first-half points and the Clippers led 58-57 at the break. Porter had 14 in the half for Denver.

The Nuggets rattled off nine straight points to take a 70-66 lead on Gordon’s 3-pointer with 6:47 left in the third quarter. Denver led by seven late in the period before Wall made two free throws with 10 seconds remaining, slicing the Clippers’ deficit to 86-81 entering the final stanza.

–Field Level Media