Denver falls despite Camby’s return
DENVER ” The return of the NBA’s leading rebounder after missing a month was no match for the league’s best-rebounding team.
Elton Brand scored 33 points and the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled the return of Denver center Marcus Camby with a 105-87 win Friday night that snapped the Nuggets’ seven-game winning streak.
“That was our most complete road victory of the year,” Brand said. “A hot team, seven in a row and a good team. First place in their division. So it was a good win for us.”
And a bad loss for the Nuggets, who were outrebounded 45-32 by the Clippers, which led to more second-chance points, more points in the paint and more fast-break points for Los Angeles.
“I don’t remember the last team that outran us in our building,” Nuggets coach George Karl said after Denver’s worst loss at home this season.
“Tonight we got outplayed, we got outrebounded, we got outshot, we got outworked. You could probably put ‘OUTWORKED’ in capital letters,” Karl said. “I don’t know why. In 82 games, you have a few of these.”
Camby was rusty in his first game since Dec. 27, a day after he broke his right pinkie, and the Nuggets, who had won 11 of 15 without him, were off-target all night at the Pepsi Center, getting outscored 49-33 in the second half.
Camby had five points and 10 boards in 23 minutes and shot just 1-for-10 from the field.
“I missed shots I normally knock down,” he said. “I just have to forget about it and deal with it. Having an injury to my shooting hand isn’t ideal. I just will have to do better.”
His teammates were just glad to have their big man back on the court.
“We are trying to move forward, and the good thing is that we got Marcus back, and we will just take it one day at a time and try to get back into a rhythm,” Andre Miller said. “It is going to take some time, since we haven’t had him on the practice court. We’ll get back into a groove.”
Sam Cassell added 25 points for Los Angeles and sparked a 22-6 third-quarter run that put the Clippers in control. Chris Kaman had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
The Nuggets get an immediate shot at redemption because same teams meet Saturday night for a rematch at the Staples Center.
Camby was off to the best start of his nine-year career before the finger injury, averaging 16.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. He still hopes to make the All-Star team and has five more games to make an impression, but his bigger wish was not to mess up the good chemistry the Nuggets had developed in his absence.
The Nuggets lost their first two games without Camby but turned it around in January, going 11-2 until Friday night on the strength of their fantastic forward combination of Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin.
Anthony scored 25 points against the Clippers but only six in the second half, and Martin added 16, but he went to the bench with his fourth foul when L.A. made its run behind Brand and Cassell.
The Clippers took a 56-54 halftime lead and closed the third quarter with a 22-6 run to make it 80-66.
Brand, who pulled down 10 rebounds, scored the Clippers’ first 14 points before he ended his streak by dishing to Kaman for a bucket with 6:16 left in the first quarter.
“I wanted to set a tone, I really wanted this game,” Brand said. “They kept finding me in positions I could score and once they started doubling me really hard on the catch, there were other guys open. I didn’t mind sharing the rock.”
Camby got a rousing ovation when he entered the game for Francisco Elson with 4:23 left in the first but quickly showed the rust, shooting an air ball on his first touch.
The Nuggets were glad to get another crack at the Clippers right away.
“We played a bad game tonight,” Miller said. “But we can go out there and get them tomorrow.”
Notes: Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said he expects F Corey Maggette will have the cast removed from his left foot on Tuesday. … Clippers backup C Zeljko Rebraca will be held out two to three weeks as a precaution after he experienced chest pains during warmups before L.A.’s win over New Jersey on Wednesday night.
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