NBA in-season tournament: Nuggets give Clippers 6th straight loss, Victor Wembanyama-Chet Holmgren matchup fizzles

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 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 Jokić.

The game ended in comedic fashion, as Paul George, who led all scorers with 35 points, missed a 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 the team could become functional, as constructed.

Harden had his most productive game as a Clipper, 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, the Nuggets 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, nor 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, seven-rebound, zero-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 134, Memphis Grizzlies 107

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 card 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.

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