LOS ANGELES (AP)—The old Clippers never would have staged such a comeback victory.
Sam Cassell scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 22-point deficit and 81.6 percent shooting by Denver in the first half to beat the Nuggets 111-109 on Tuesday night.
“I’m just happy and proud that we showed the resolve and the intensity and the heart to come back,” said Elton Brand, who recorded his 41st double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“But on the other hand, it was disappointing that we had to come back like that after digging ourselves such a deep hole. We thought if we kept playing defense the way we were playing, they might shoot 90 percent. Coach really laid into us, but he didn’t have to because we were disappointed in ourselves.”
It was the largest deficit that Los Angeles has overcome this season to win a game, and tied for their third-largest ever. They came back from 24 points down to win at Chicago on Nov. 13, 2004, and erased a 23-point swing at San Antonio on Dec. 23, 1988.
The Clippers shot an impressive 55.8 percent in the first half, but the Nuggets offset that with their stunning offensive display to take a 77-57 lead at intermission. Camby, who shot 4-for-19 against the Clippers in two previous games against them this season, started out 9-for-9 from the field this time before finishing 9-for-13 with 19 points.
“We had it rolling in the first half,” Camby said. “In the second half they improved their defense and we were forcing shots. You’ve got to give those guys credit. They made adjustments. They got their best defenders in and they were able to keep clawing back in the ballgame.”
The Nuggets, who shot only 38.7 percent from the field in Sunday’s 103-79 loss at Dallas, connected on their first 12 shots against the Clippers and were 31 of 38 in the half before finishing the game at 54.7 percent.
Anthony, who missed all three shots he took in the fourth quarter, took out his frustrations with 1:11 to play after getting fouled hard by Quinton Ross on a layup. He punched the basketball about 25 rows up into the stands and was immediately ejected. It ended a streak in which Anthony had scored at least 25 points in 11 straight games.
“The rule is now that anything thrown into the crowd is an automatic ejection, so I’m pretty sure he did warrant the ejection from the interpretation of the rules,” Denver coach George Karl said.
“Carmelo got frustrated. I wish he wouldn’t have, but over an 82-game season, things like that do happen. If we just kept our cool and kept the frustration out of the game, we’d probably tie the game up and it would probably have a different rhythm to it.”
Vladimir Radmanovic had 18 points and Corey Maggette added 17 for the Clippers, who trailed 77-55 in the final minute of the first half before staging their remarkable comeback. It began with a 17-4 run, capped by a layup by Quinton Ross that narrowed the gap to 82-77 with 3:48 left in the quarter.
“Their second unit came in and gave them a lot of life and got them some energy,” Karl said. “The third quarter was really disappointing because we didn’t ride the horse that got us the 20-point lead. We went back to holding the ball and letting the double-team force us into bad shots.”
Maggette’s 3-pointer and Brand’s putback of Cuttino Mobley’s missed layup tied the score 97-all with 7:10 remaining. Cassell converted Anthony’s turnover into a reverse layup on the ensuing fast break about 2 minutes later for a 101-99 lead—the Clippers’ first of the game.
“We just gave up layup after layup in the first half, but we knew we would get back in the game,” Cassell said. “We got seven consecutive stops and scored five times off that and cut the lead down to 10, and then I knew we were going to win.”
The lead changed hands twice before Maggette’s dunk put Los Angeles ahead to stay at 109-107 with 1:28 left. Ruben Patterson had a chance to tie, but missed a hurried 14-foot jumper as time expired.
Los Angeles won the previous two meetings by a combined margin of 51 points. The Clippers’ 112-79 home victory over Denver on Jan. 28 was their most lopsided win of the season, and represented the largest margin of defeat by the Nuggets. Since that game, the Clippers added Radmanovic and the previously injured Maggette to the mix.
Anthony earned his third career Western Conference player of the month award on Monday after averaging 29.9 points in March. … Patterson ended Denver’s 12-for-12 start when he missed a reverse layup. … The Clippers won the season series 3-1.