With 1.3 seconds left in the third quarter of Tuesday night's year-opening tilt between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers, Denver point guard Andre Miller prepared to inbound the ball with a chance for one final shot. So, understandably, he looked for the Nuggets' irrepressible 7-foot secret weapon:
Somewhere — perhaps wearing a reversible Santa Cruz Warriors practice jersey — surely, Lil B was smiling down upon this moment. Which is appropriate, because I'm not sure if there's a more based player in the NBA than JaVale McGee — excluding, of course, Metta World Peace. (Also, it's kind of perfect that JaVale dusted off a move that peaked in popularity sometime between fall 2010 and early 2011 to celebrate a play made on New Year's Day 2013.)
The long ball — which, as you might expect, was the first of the 7-foot center's five-year NBA career — put the Denver Nuggets up 75-59 heading into the fourth quarter of their matchup with the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Clippers, and Vinny Del Negro's team never got closer than 13 in the final frame en route to a 92-78 loss that snapped L.A.'s franchise-record and NBA-best winning streak at 17 games.
After the game, Miller and McGee broke down the play for Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post:
"I saw Lamar Odom sitting in the paint, so I told [McGee] if he gets open to shoot the ball," Miller said. "I didn't think he would step out to 3 — I thought he'd go out to 15 feet and take the 15-footer. But it was a big energy change going into the fourth. His stroke looked nice. It looked better than mine."
It was McGee's first-ever 3-pointer, and he celebrated with a little dance in which he said he was "stirring the pot, then tasting it. I just wanted to show everybody that I have the most creative 3-point celebrations in the league."
We're sure that Nuggets coach George Karl is just thrilled to hear that JaVale's looking to showcase his 3-point celebrations. What coach wouldn't want a 7-footer who's made five shots from 20 feet or beyond over the past five seasons and 308 games to decide it's time to show off his range?
McGee finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in 17 minutes off the Denver bench, and was one of six Nuggets in double-figures. Danilo Gallinari led the way with 17 points and six rebounds, Andre Iguodala chipped in 12 points, eight assists and seven boards, both Miller (12 points, 12 assists) and Kenneth Faried (14 points, 11 rebounds) added double-doubles, and Corey Brewer contributed 10 points, four boards, four assists and four steals off the pine for Denver, who are now 18-15 and have won seven of their last 10 games.
Most importantly, the Nuggets continue to take care of business at home, improving to 10-1 at the Pepsi Center on the season ... and after playing a monstrously road-heavy early-season slate, they're about to play 14 of their next 17 at home before heading out on a long mid-February road trip. If the Nuggets continue to play like the team we've seen over the past two-plus weeks — a top-10 offense (scoring 106.6 points per 100 possessions) that hammers opponents down low, in transition and on the offensive glass to make up for their jump-shooting deficiencies, and a top-five defense (allowing 97.2-per-100) that harasses opponents into bad shooting nights of their own (they're allowing a league-best 40.3 percent mark from the field and a fifth-best 30.9 percent from 3-point range) and capitalizes on their mistakes (fourth in the NBA in points off turnovers in the past 10 games) — they could be poised to make a big run up the Western Conference standings, where they currently sit seventh.
With the loss, the Clippers fall percentage points behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot out west, and — with the exception of center DeAndre Jordan and reserve guard Eric Bledsoe, who combined for 23 points on 9 for 11 shooting — for the first time in more than a month, they were just utterly discombobulated offensively. The other eight Clippers who saw action and attempted a field goal (you're safe, Ryan Hollins) shot a combined 21 for 67 (31.3 percent), went 3 for 26 (11.5 percent) from 3-point range and missed 16 of their 29 foul shots, converting just 44.8 percent of their freebies. Del Negro's All-Star inside-out combo struggled mightily, as Blake Griffin lost his battles with foul trouble and a maniacally active Faried to finish with 12 points on 4 for 11 shooting and nine rebounds, and Chris Paul never really took control with his own offense, scoring just 10 points on nine attempts.
Video via our friends at the National Basketball Association.