The Clippers were not going to win the next 50 games, there was going to be a day when the shots would just clang off the rim. There was going to be a night when nothing went right.
That night was Jan. 1 in Denver.
The Clippers had shot 48.3% last 15 games, and 41.9 percent from three in their last five games. But a combination of solid Nugget defense and just an ice-cold shooting night had the Clippers shooting 38.2 percent overall and 5-of-29 from three.
The result was the death of the win streak at 17 and a 92-78 Denver win.
And it doesn’t get any easier for the Clippers this week as they fly to Golden State for a Wednesday night game then host the Lakers on Friday. January is not going to be like the perfect December the Clippers had.
We should not shortchange Denver here. With Ty Lawson out (Achilles) Andre Miller stepped in and controlled the flow of the game, with 12 points and 12 assists on the night. Danilo Galliari had 17 to lead six Nuggets in double digits. They earned this win and outplayed the Clippers at both ends of the floor — Denver outhustled and outworked the Clippers all night long.
But that’s not really the story.
This was the Clippers that won every game for a month having an off night — they just missed a lot of open looks. Blake Griffin, who had a couple rough games before this one, was 4-of 11 on the night. Jamal Crawford 2-of-11. Willie Green 1-of-9. Really DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe were the only guys hitting shots, and that wasn’t enough.
It’s also the kind of loss the Clippers can just shrug off. They didn’t lose because of some fundamental flaw with the team, they just had a bad night against a good team. It’s the NBA, that happens. To everyone.
The Clippers can just shrug this off and move on.
They need to move on. At the end of the season this streak will not define them, how they do in the playoffs will. This streak has them 3.5 games ahead of the Warriors and 9 ahead of the Lakers in the Pacific, it gives them a real chance at a great playoff seed and an easier road to advance. That’s all good, but it’s not what they will remember wherever the season ends for them.
Shrug it off, move on.