After a powerful lightning strike from the plane, the Clippers returners fade in the overtime loss to the Nuggets

Clippers forward Paul George, left, tries to get around Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during the first half on Sunday. The Clippers came back from an 18-point deficit before losing to the Denver Nuggets in overtime 134-124. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

The wounds from Friday’s double overtime loss were still fresh when he did Scissors boarded their jet in Los Angeles around noon Saturday.

Just about 13 hours earlier, their lead of 14 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, six in overtime and six again in double overtime all melted into a bitter loss against a Sacramento team they were supposed to keep pace with in the Western Conference standings.

First seed Denver was waiting. But within a minute of the team plane taking off, lightning struck, and Clippers staff and flight crew members felt the engines go silent for a moment before revving up for a steep climb into the clouds. When they all got out in Denver, the noticeable patch along the tail, the point of impact, was discolored.

What followed Sunday night at the Ball Arena was another stormy takeoff and bumpy ride, a 134-124 overtime loss To the Nuggets who ended a bitter 48 hours whose events no one expected.

Trailing by 18 to the West’s best team in the first quarter, the Clippers pulled within four in the third quarter, only for a flagrant foul to start a disastrous run. Two minutes later their deficit was 14.

Using a colorful lineup — with starting center Ivica Zubac missing his second straight game — the Clippers grabbed their first lead with just four minutes left in regulation on a winding drive to Paul George which also resulted in a free throw.

When the Clippers failed to grab a rebound off Jamal Murray’s deep layup to beat the near-expired shot clock, the Nuggets passed to Michael Porter Jr. for a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left and 120 seconds left. -118 lead.

George, who missed two critical free throws Friday, again Sacramento, made two free throws to tie the game with 23 seconds left, then after a Denver miss in the final seconds, hit a shot from past half court that swung — but the ball was in his hands as the last seconds ticked away.

In overtime, the Clippers’ resilience disappeared, they missed all five of their shots and got four points on free throws.

Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points, George had 23 and Russell Westbrook scored 17, with five rebounds, five steals and four assists. But unlike Friday, when coach Tyronn Lue kept Westbrook during critical minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime, Westbrook did not play after being checked out with 1 minute, 21 seconds left in the third quarter.

With the new rotation, the Clippers could not solve the perennial problem of stopping Denver superstar Nikola Jokic, who could be on his way to winning the title of the NBA’s most valuable player for the third consecutive season. Without Zubac, the Clippers tried to defend him with Mason Plumlee early on, then switched to forward Nicolas Batum at halftime, whose long arms and trickery successfully denied Jokic the ball and the position he wants. However, Jokić scored 40 points with 17 rebounds and 10 assists, and he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The loss left the Clippers 33-30 and trailing all four games against Denver, who are 9-2 against the Clippers since the teams met in the 2020 Western Conference semifinals.

The drama started long before extra time.

Traded to Charlotte before the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline in exchange for Plumlee, before he was subsequently bought out and signed with Denver as a free agent, former Clippers guard Reggie Jackson went through Ball Arena security three hours before tipoff.

Wearing a jacket and trucker hat, Jackson – who spent his high school years in Colorado Springs, Colo. – started a conversation with almost every staff member he passed, as was his custom with the Clippers.

Right behind him through the arena’s metal detector was Bones Hyland, who went from a rookie last season with the Nuggets to a second-round pick with the Clippers a few months later, a trade accelerated when the team and the rookie disagreed on his role.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic drives to the basket between Clippers center Mason Plumlee and forward Kawhi Leonard.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic drives to the basket between Clippers center Mason Plumlee, left, and forward Kawhi Leonard in the first half on Sunday. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Denver didn’t seem disappointed about losing Hyland to a conference rival. Nuggets coach Michael Malone praised Clippers backup center Mason Plumlee, himself a former Nugget, before tip-off, citing his professionalism, but when asked about Hyland, Malone briefly replied, “I wish him the best,” before a team official cut Malone off. media talk availability.

In an era when NBA teams honor all big-name returning players with videos, Hyland stared at the arena’s suspended scoreboard during the first intermission, but the digital welcome never arrived. Boos, however, did so whenever Hyland touched the ball. In contrast, Jackson’s first appearance in Denver as a Nugget was met with thunderous applause and the public address announcer’s message of “Welcome back, baby!”

Hyland didn’t play Friday, Westbrook’s debut pushed the 22-year-old down the depth chart, but with five minutes left in the first quarter Hyland was inserted to use his microwave scoring to rally the Clippers from what was already an 18-point deficit. Gone was the heart gesture Hyland flashed the fans during warmups, replaced by an icy look toward a section of the courtside crowd after his first 3-pointer, then another look toward the Nuggets coaching staff and bench after the second. Energy was vital, and the Clippers’ 11-point second-quarter surge was essential to avoid a repeat of Jan. 13, when Denver jumped out to a double-digit lead and crushed the Clippers by halftime.

Hyland scored 10 points, Jackson seven, but both were ultimately subplots to a larger story about what Malone also said before tipoff: These teams, separated by three spots in the standings, were still the same and needed to establish their identities in the for the season. remaining last quarter.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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