Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, center, shoots against Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson, right, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 11:58 pm
Martin leads Clippers past Nuggets 104-98
By ARNIE STAPLETONAP Sports Writer
Martin tipped in Chris Paul's missed jumper with 27 seconds left and the game tied at 96, then blocked Ty Lawson at the other end with 20 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Paul made two free throws with 18.3 seconds left to make it a four-point game.
The Nuggets got back within two on Lawson's free throws with 16 seconds remaining, but Mo Williams, who scored 19 points and came up huge in the fourth quarter, replied with two free throws and Paul, who led the Clippers with 21 points, capped the game with an uncontested dunk.
With their 13th win in 15 games, the Clippers moved into a first-place tie in the Pacific Division with the Los Angeles Lakers, who played at Golden State later Wednesday night.
Despite 24 points from Lawson, the Nuggets lost at home for the first time since March 19, and slipped into seventh place in the West, a half-game behind Dallas, which beat Houston 117-110 on Wednesday.
After Lawson's 3-pointer put the Nuggets ahead 87-82 midway through the fourth quarter, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run with two 3s from Williams to take a five-point lead.
Williams' most impressive 3-pointer came with the Clippers clinging to a 92-89 lead. Paul lost the handle on the ball with the shot clock winding down, Williams scooped it up and let loose an off-balance prayer that swished as the buzzer went off, giving the Clippers a six-point lead with 3 minutes left.
Kenneth Faried's three-point play with 1:21 left pulled Denver to 96-94. After Paul missed a jumper, Andre' Miller was fouled and made both free throws to tie it with just under a minute remaining.
Blake Griffin scored 12 points, eight shy of his average, for the Clippers. He was held in check for much of the first half by Faried but he broke free for three straight dunks, each more impressive than the last, in the closing minutes as the Clippers pulled to 53-47 at halftime.
His first two dunk attempts of the second half went awry, however. On the first, Faried appeared to have a clean block but was whistled for the foul and Griffin missed both free throws. On his next touch, Griffin skied for the hoop but the ball hit the back of the rim and bounced back almost to midcourt.
Still, the Clippers kept possession and Randy Foye made two free throws as the Clippers went on a 14-2 run to start the second half and take a 61-55 lead.
The game was tied at 76 after Denver closed the third quarter on a 17-9 run capped by Lawson's basket after swiping DeAndre Jordan's inbounds pass after a dunk by JaVale McGee.
The Nuggets got some bad news before the game when versatile forward Wilson Chandler learned his season was over. He needs surgery to repair a labral tear in his left hip.
Chandler arrived in Denver last February as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. He played for Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association during the NBA lockout and rejoined the Nuggets a month ago, signing a five-year deal worth nearly $37 million.
The 24-year-old averaged 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in eight games, including six starts, but spent more time on the sideline than on the court after hurting his hip. Chandler returned Monday night against Houston after missing eight games, but he retreated to the bench after logging just 7 minutes.
Notes: Chandler said he hoped to have surgery next week. ... The Nuggets' win at Houston on Monday night allowed the Clippers to clinch their first playoff berth since 2006. ... Lawson was credited with a basket early in the fourth quarter when Jordan grabbed the net with one hand while going up for the block.