LOS ANGELES -- J.R. Smith scored 19 points and Linas Kleiza had five of his 18 points in the final 68 seconds, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 106-92 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night in the preseason finale for both teams.
Kenyon Martin had 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting after the Nuggets' victory in Toronto on Tuesday night because of a sprained left (non-shooting) wrist. Allen Iverson played 32 minutes and finished with seven points.
The Nuggets (6-1) will open Wednesday night at Utah. The defending Northwest Division champions have been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for five consecutive seasons, and last April got swept by the Lakers - becoming the first team in NBA history to win 50 games in the regular season and none in the postseason.
Cuttino Mobley scored 21 points for the Clippers, who finished their exhibition schedule 3-4 - not counting a 114-109 victory over FC Barcelona. They will open their 25th season in Los Angeles on Wednesday night at Staples Center with a designated home game against the Western Conference champion Lakers.
The Clippers, already missing Baron Davis, Tim Thomas and Marcus Camby with injuries, got a scare when No. 1 draft pick Eric Gordon attempted a driving layup and crashed to the floor after a flagrant foul by Smith with 3:22 remaining and the Clippers behind 99-82.
But Gordon stayed in the game, converting both free throws and following that up with a three-point play and a layup on a goaltending call to slice it to 101-89 with 2:21 to play. But Kleiza made a hook shot and a 3-pointer 24 seconds apart to seal it.
Al Thornton had three points for Los Angeles in a foul-plagued 14½ minutes, picking up his fifth with 6:17 left in third quarter and going to the bench for good with Los Angeles trailing 72-54.
Denver coach George Karl used his regular starting lineup and got the expected results. The Nuggets built a 62-43 halftime lead, outrebounding Los Angeles 27-18 in the half and converting 12 Clippers into 17 points.
Clippers' 3-point specialist Steve Novak, acquired in a trade with Houston on Aug. 6, hit a 19-foot jumper with 10:03 left in the second quarter -- ending his string of 31 consecutive 3-point attempts from the start of the preseason -- 15 of which he made.
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy referred to the Clippers' early schedule as a "monster," because their first seven games are against Western Conference teams that made the playoffs last season. The fact that he hasn't had the entire team available for any of the preseason games will make it that much tougher, especially with nine new players on the roster.
One of them is Camby, who spent the previous six seasons with the Nuggets before he was traded to the Clippers on July 15. Camby did not play in any preseason games because of a bruised right heel he sustained two weeks ago during a scrimmage.
Camby, the NBA's leading shot-blocked in each of the last three seasons, is still walking with a limp, and Dunleavy said it would be "a pleasant surprise," if Camby is ready for opening night. If not, he is hoping to play next Friday when the Nuggets are back in Los Angeles.
The Clippers were 8-for-24 from behind the arc and finished the exhibition schedule 52-for-141 (36.9 percent) in that department.
"We've added a lot of 3-point shooting," Dunleavy said. "Last year we shot the least 3-point shots in the whole league. Why? Because we couldn't make them. So you don't shoot them if you can't make them. I mean, I led the NBA in 3-point shooting as a player, so you think I'm not a proponent of 3-point shooting? Now we've got some kids who can shoot 3-pointers and explode, and we can throw some points on the board.
|Denver (6-1) «||25||37||22||22||106|
|L.A. Clippers (3-4)||21||22||22||27||92|