Nuggets down Clippers to keep playoffs dream alive

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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 07: Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket past Tyrone Wallace #12 of the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of the game at the Staples Center on April 7, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

Will Barton scored 31 points and Nikola Jokic added 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and the Denver Nuggets earned their fifth consecutive victory with a 134-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

The Nuggets pulled into a tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves for eighth place in the Western Conference with two games to play. Both teams are 45-35.

The Nuggets finish up the regular season at home against Portland on Monday night before playing the Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.

Minnesota, who hold the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, host Memphis on Monday night.

The Clippers were eliminated from the playoffs race. They suffered their fourth loss in five games, falling to 42-38, 2.5 games out of eighth place, with two to play. The elimination ends a run of six consecutive postseason appearances for the Clippers, who previously missed the playoffs in 2010-11.

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Jamal Murray added 19 points, Paul Millsap had 15 and Wilson Chander 13 for the Nuggets, who shot 62.4 percent from the field.

Lou Williams scored 24 points to lead the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 17 rebounds, with Tyrone Wallace chipping in 18 and Tobias Harris had 16 for Los Angeles.

Leading 81-71, Barton hit a 3-pointer after the Nuggets grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to ignite a 12-3 run that finished with Harris making the score 93-74 with 3:09 to pay.

The victory was Denver’s first this season over the Clippers, who won the first two meetings, 109-104, at Staples Center on January 17, and 122-120 in Denver on February 27.

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TIP-INS

Nuggets: Opened the game making 10-of-12 shots for a 21-13 lead with 4:41 left in the first quarter, finishing the quarter 15-of-21 for a 33-26 advantage.

Clippers: Lou Williams, the team’s leading scorer, was 0-for-7 in the first half, scoring eight points on free-throws. His first basket, a 3-pointer, came with 7:04 left in the third with the Clippers down 80-66.

DENVER D

The Nuggets had kept their playoff hopes alive with four wins by four points or fewer, two in overtime, thanks to an improved defense. Over the four games, Denver held opponents to 44-percent shooting, four points better than their season average.

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”We’re not waiting for the fourth quarter for that, we’re doing that as early as possible, trying to get key stops,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. ”The end of the first quarter is as important as the end of the fourth quarter.”

WEARY CLIPS

After the Clippers were badly beaten 117-95 by the Jazz in Utah on Thursday night, Doc Rivers gave his team the day off before playing the Nuggets.

”Watched film, watched the Masters, went out and played nine,” Rivers said. ”What can you do? We don’t have enough bodies in practice. You’ve got to get your mind ready.”

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