Clippers rout Nuggets by 21

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LOS ANGELES -- The plan by the Los Angeles Clippers was to hit the Denver Nuggets early and often. The scheme practically worked to perfection as the Clippers rolled to a 112-91 rout of the Nuggets on Saturday at the Staples Center.

Guard Jamal Crawford scored 27 points and forward Blake Griffin had 24 points and 16 rebounds as Los Angeles (19-9) captured its fourth consecutive win and dropped Denver (14-12) to its third straight defeat and its fourth setback in five games.

Denver was playing the second game of back-to-backs, coming off a crushing 103-99 defeat at home by the Phoenix Suns after blowing a 21-point lead and being outscored 31-17 in the fourth quarter Friday night.

The Nuggets looked spent and labored early and the Clippers took advantage of them.

"They lost a tough game last night," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I know that but I don't think I need to share that with our guys. They probably know it anyway. But I thought it was very important how we came out at the start because I thought that helped us and helped our spirit."

"I think for us, whenever we set the tone in the first quarter it kind of carries, especially for someone who just played last night," said Crawford, who hit 10 of his 20 shots from the floor, including 6 of 12 from behind the arc. "We kind of understood that."

Clippers forward Matt Barnes, in his first game back in a month after recovering from a retinal tear in his left eye, and guard Darren Collison each scored 13 points, while point guard Chris Paul added 10 points and dished out 11 assists. Center DeAndre Jordan had 12 rebounds, seven points and three blocks.

Forward Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets with 19 points, all in the first half. Reserve center Timofey Mozgov scored 15 and grabbed eight rebounds. Point guard Ty Lawson, who still appeared to be fighting a case of the flu, added 13 points and six assists. Reserve guard Nate Robinson had 11 points.

The Nuggets lost forward Kenneth Faried less than four minutes into the contest with a sprained left ankle and it went downhill from there.

"It's tough being down most of the game and trying to fight back," said Chandler, who converted 8 of his 15 shots, but was only 2 of 8 on 3-pointers. "They came out aggressive and kind of outplayed us. We didn't fight back. They kind of hit us first and we just took the punch and never fought back."

They experienced a poor shooting exhibition (29.2 percent on 14 of 48 attempts) as the Clippers, who hit 48.8 percent of their shots (20 of 41) and led by as much as 17, cruised to a 56-43 halftime lead behind 14 points from Griffin and 12 more from Crawford.

And just to put a topper on Denver's woes, Collison gathered a deflected pass and heaved it from near the top of the key for an off-balance bucket to beat the halftime horn.

Still, without the play of Chandler, who hit first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting before the break, it could have been worse.

The Nuggets showed a pulse after intermission, making a 9-2 run to open the third and pulling to within 58-52 after a dunk by Mozgov.

But the Clippers quickly countered it as Crawford, who scored 11 points in the quarter, sparked a 21-8 spurt from that point on for a 79-60 lead heading into the fourth.

"What I liked the most was the transition 'D,'" Rivers said. "I think they had nine points in transition and that's what they do so well. They come down, they spread the floor, they beat you to the basket and get those trail (3-pointers). I thought we did a great job of taking that away and making them run their half-court (offense), which was great for us."

NOTES: Attendance was a sell-out 19,129. ... Los Angeles G Jamal Crawford topped 14,000 points with a 3-pointer in the second quarter. ... Denver coach Brian Shaw made his first visit to LA as a head coach. "I've had some of my best memories and basketball moments in this city," said Shaw, a former assistant to Phil Jackson and a member of five Lakers championship teams, three as a player. "I spent 12 years here with the Lakers and so I'm very familiar with this building. Just makes me smile and feel good knowing that I was able to accomplish a lot here." Shaw and his club will face the Lakers again on Jan. 5. ... The Nuggets return home to play the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. ... The Clippers host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

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