The Los Angeles Clippers played their best game since their blockbuster trade for James Harden. They still lost to the shorthanded defending champions.
The Denver Nuggets held off the Clippers for a 111-108 home win on Tuesday in the third night of action of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament, spurred by 32 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists from Nikola Jokic.
The game ended in comedic fashion, as Paul George, who led all scorers with 35 points, missed a game-tying 3-point attempt bad enough to cause a wedgie in the final seconds, leading to a jump ball the Clippers lost.
The loss is the Clippers’ sixth straight and their fifth since acquiring Harden. However, whereas their previous loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was a clear low point, Tuesday provided reason for hope that the team could become functional, as constructed.
Harden had his most productive game as a Clippers, posting 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Consider he went through a contentious training camp with a different team, didn’t play in preseason or the regular season before his trade and is still only in his second week with Los Angeles, any sign of progress is significant.
As for Denver, they remain undefeated at home and 3-1 since losing Jamal Murray to injury.
It was a wild night across the league, two different shoving matches breaking out in the West. Meanwhile, maybe the NBA should’ve saved Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren’s first meeting for this tournament instead of the very first preseason game.
That first meeting — in which Wembanyama had 20 points and five rebounds, while Holmgren had 21 points and nine boards — set the bar so incredibly high for when the two finally squared off in the regular season.
Unfortunately, for all of the hype coming in, the game that really mattered didn’t provide the same battle of the titans feel. Instead of the one-point game everyone was treated to on Oct. 9, the Oklahoma City Thunder rolled the San Antonio Spurs 123-87 on Tuesday night.
Neither Wembanyama, the top pick in 2023, or Holmgren, the second-overall pick in 2022, played to the same level either.
Instead, Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stole the show with 28 points, six rebounds, five assists and seven steals. He led all scorers and helped the Thunder cruise to an easy victory and a 7-4 record. San Antonio drops to 0-2 in tournament play and 3-8 on the season.
The most consequential game of the night might have been the Indiana Pacers’ defeat of the streaking Philadelphia 76ers. The two teams entered 1-0, but the Pacers snapped an eight-game winning streak behind a 19-point, 15-assist, 7-rebound, 0-turnover night from rising star Tyrese Haliburton.
The Pacers now sit atop their group at 2-0, with their remaining games against the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons.
Tuesday’s NBA in-season tournament scores
Atlanta Hawks 126, Detroit Pistons 120
Indiana Pacers 132, Philadelphia 76ers 126
Miami Heat 111, Charlotte Hornets 105
Brooklyn Nets 124, Orlando Magic 104
Oklahoma City Thunder 123, San Antonio Spurs 87
New Orleans Pelicans 131, Dallas Mavericks 110
Utah Jazz 115, Portland Trail Blazers 99
Denver Nuggets 111, Los Angeles Clippers 108
Minnesota Timberwolves 104, Golden State Warriors 101
Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies
NBA in-season tournament standings
In the in-season tournament, every team will face the other four teams in its randomly selected group once. The top team in each group and a wild cards in each conference will advance to a single-elimination knockout stage, with quarterfinals played on Dec. 4 and 5 in team arenas and the final two rounds played in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and 9.
All games save for the championship game will count toward regular-season records. Tiebreakers are, in order: head-to-head record, point differential, total points scored, 2022-23 regular-season record and a random drawing.
East Group A
1. Indiana Pacers: 2-0, +11
2. Atlanta Hawks: 1-0, +6
3. Philadelphia 76ers: 1-1, +2
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: 0-1, -5
5. Detroit Pistons: 0-2, -14
East Group B
1. Miami Heat: 2-0, +13
2. Milwaukee Bucks: 1-0, +5
3. Charlotte Hornets: 1-1, +1
4. New York Knicks: 0-1, -5
5. Washington Wizards: 0-2, -14
East Group C
1. Boston Celtics: 1-0, +14
2. Brooklyn Nets: 2-1, +8
3. Toronto Raptors: 0-0, n/a
4. Orlando Magic: 0-1, -2
5. Chicago Bulls: 0-1, -20
West Group A
1. Los Angeles Lakers: 2-0, +30
2. Utah Jazz: 2-0, +22
2. Portland Trail Blazers: 1-1, -14
4. Phoenix Suns: 0-1, -3
5. Memphis Grizzlies: 0-3, -35
West Group B
1. Denver Nuggets: 2-0, +14
1. Houston Rockets: 1-0, +3
3. New Orleans Pelicans: 1-1, +18
3. Dallas Mavericks: 1-2, -14
5. Los Angeles Clippers: 0-2, -21
West Group C
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: 2-0, +10
2. Sacramento Kings: 1-0, +7
3. Golden State Warriors: 1-1, -1
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: 1-2, +27
4. San Antonio Spurs: 0-1, -43