DENVER — Los Angeles Clippers forwards Matt Barnes and Blake Griffin huddled over a laptop computer in the locker room after the game to see the final seconds unfold again.
They watched as Denver Nuggets guard Randy Foye took a pass, dribbled behind the top of the key and squared to the basket. He rose up, and with Griffin’s outstretched arm in his face, let fly with a 30-footer that beat the buzzer and the Clippers 116-115 Monday night.
After watching it again, Griffin, who had 36 points and 11 rebounds, shook his head and said, “Nothing you can do about that.”
It took a big shot and a big game from two starters for the Nuggets to escape with a victory. Forward Kenneth Faried scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and guard Ty Lawson added 27 points in his return for the Nuggets, who snapped a two-game skid.
Their efforts were nearly wasted until Foye hit his shot.
“That’s probably one of the top moments in my playing career,” Foye said. “I’ve had 30-point games, 16 rebounds, 16 assists … but nothing was as big as this shot tonight in my career.”
Moments before, Barnes was the hero when his 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left gave the Clippers a two-point lead.
After a timeout, Los Angeles took away the Nuggets’ first option, forward Wilson Chandler, leading to a mad scramble at the end.
“The play was broken,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They were trying to go quick; we blew the play up. Give Foye credit, he didn’t stop, he just came and got the ball and made a shot.”
Both centers recorded double-doubles. Los Angeles’ DeAndre Jordan finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Denver’s J.J. Hickson had 17 points and 12 boards.
It was a tough ending for a Clippers team that was rolling since the start of the calendar year. They were 12-4 in January despite not having All-Star guard Chris Paul, out since Jan. 4 with a shoulder injury.
He could return as early as the weekend, adding more firepower the rotation.
So far, his teammates are doing well without him, and they nearly pulled out Monday’s game with a fourth-quarter push.
With the visitors down by one, Jordan’s dunk and guard J.J. Redick’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers a 103-99 lead.
After two free throws by Lawson, Griffin’s lob pass led to another Jordan dunk.
Six straight free throws gave Denver a 109-107 lead with 2:06 remaining, and after Griffin’s fast-break dunk, Lawson tied it at 111 with 1:21 left.
Griffin hit one free throw and Chandler a pair at the other end to give Denver a 113-112 lead.
The teams traded missed jumpers, setting up the final sequence.
After Foye’s jumper went in, he fell to the floor and his teammates mobbed him.
“I just had to go hug him because I was excited for him and excited for our team,” Faried said. “We needed that. We needed that relief.”
The Nuggets looked crisper with Lawson back in the lineup after he missed two games with a left rotator cuff strain. Following two turnover-filled contests in his absence, they took better care of the ball in the first half.
They struggled in the third quarter, committing eight turnovers, double their first-half output. However, a steal and layup at the buzzer by forward Quincy Miller gave Denver an 82-81 lead heading into the fourth.
Griffin had 22 points in the first half as the Clippers led by 13 at one point. The Nuggets rallied to tie it heading into the locker room.
“To be 60-all at the half, when there was a time when we had a 13-point lead in the second quarter, we’ve got to keep that, especially on the road,” Griffin said.
The Clippers gave up 17 offensive rebounds and were beaten 52-37 on the boards.
“That’s where we lost the game,” Rivers said. “We always focus on the final shot, but we gave up eight points in the first half off of free throws where they missed a shot, got it back and scored. We’ve got to rebound better as a group.”
NOTES: The Clippers signed G Sasha Vujacic to a 10-day contract, but he did not play Monday. Vujacic, 29, was part of the Lakers’ title teams in 2009 and 2010. He most recently played for a Turkish team the last two seasons, where he averaged 9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. … Nuggets G Ty Lawson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a left rotator cuff strain. … Clippers C DeAndre Jordan leads the NBA in field-goal percentage and rebounding. He is vying to become just the third player in league history to finish the season atop both categories. Houston C Dwight Howard and the late Wilt Chamberlain were the other two. … Denver’s 26 turnovers against the Toronto Raptors on Friday were its most in two seasons. The Nuggets gave the ball away 17 times Monday.
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