Nikola Jokic scored 32 points as the Denver Nuggets preserved their unbeaten home record to send the Los Angeles Clippers spinning to a sixth straight defeat in the NBA’s in-season tournament on Tuesday.
A roller coaster Western Conference Group B battle in Denver saw the NBA champions overturn a seven-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to close out a 111-108 victory.
The defeat was another bitter blow for the Clippers, who have now lost six games in a row since clinching the blockbuster signing of James Harden last month.
The Clippers looked to be poised to snap that losing streak after a magnificent performance from Paul George, who finished with 35 points while Harden added 21.
Yet the battle-hardened savvy of Denver proved the difference down the stretch, with the Nuggets outscoring Los Angeles 19-9 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to snatch victory.
“They’d lost five in a row so we knew they were going to play really aggressive,” Jokic said. “But we were undefeated at home this season and we wanted to keep it like that,” added the Serb, who had 16 rebounds and nine assists.
Jokic was given scoring support from Aaron Gordon with 20 points while Reggie Jackson added 18.
In San Francisco, a fiery clash between the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves ended in a 104-101 victory for the visitors, who overturned a 12-point third-quarter deficit to snatch victory.
The result was overshadowed by a spectacular melee in the first quarter which saw Golden State stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green ejected along with Minnesota’s Jaden McDaniels.
Thompson was given his marching orders after a tangle with McDaniels in center court that ended with the Warriors player’s shirt ripped.
Green was ejected for his part in the scuffle when he dragged away the Wolves’ French star Rudy Gobert in a headlock.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was incensed by the decision to toss Thompson and insisted that Green had merely been defending a team-mate.
“There is no way Klay should have been thrown out of the game,” Kerr said. “He’s running up the floor and the guy grabs his jersey and is pulling on him, so Klay pulls back… that was ridiculous.”
On Green’s dismissal, Kerr added: “Guys on the bench were telling us Rudy had Klay, that’s why Draymond went at Rudy. That’s all I know -– it was a bizarre way to start the game, a minute and a half in.”
In Philadelphia, Tyrese Haliburton scored 33 points as the Indiana Pacers ended the 76ers’ eight-game winning streak with a 132-126 victory.
Haliburton drained seven three-pointers and finished with 15 assists, seven rebounds and no turnovers in a virtuoso display against the pace-setting Sixers.
Joel Embiid finished with 39 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Philadelphia but was unable to stop the Pacers from making it two wins out of two in the Eastern Conference Group A game.
Indiana were beaten 137-126 by the Sixers in their regular season clash on Sunday, with Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey scoring a career-high 50 points.
But the Pacers were fast out of the blocks in Tuesday’s rematch, opening up a nine-point lead at half-time and remaining in front for most of the second half until the Sixers edged ahead in the fourth quarter.
An Embiid jump shot put the Sixers 109-106 up with 6min 46sec remaining in the fourth quarter, but Haliburton and Myles Turner took over to close out the win.
In other games on Tuesday, LeBron James returned from injury to score 16 points as the Los Angeles Lakers blew out the Memphis Grizzlies 134-107.
In Oklahoma City, Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs struggled once more in a 123-87 thrashing by the Thunder. No.1 draft pick Wembanyama finished with just eight points as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stole the show for OKC with 28 points.
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