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The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off the big upset of the night on Thursday, beating the defending champion Denver Nuggets 102-100 and taking another step towards the top four of the Western Conference.

It’s not in the bag yet, but the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off the biggest upset of the night on Thursday, beating defending champions Denver 102-100.

While the Mavericks (fifth in the Western Conference) didn’t flinch at home against Atlanta in a game they won 109-95, Paul George and his teammates preserved their advantage in the final minute and took an important step toward securing fourth place in the West, which would grant them home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Clippers now hold a two-game lead over the Mavericks with six games to go before the end of the regular season on April 14th.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, have temporarily slipped back a notch in their battle with Minnesota for pole position in the Western Conference. They have one more loss and one less game to play, while Oklahoma City is on the prowl with one less win than the first two.

After falling behind 33-18 in the second quarter, Denver chased the score throughout the second half and came close to winning in the final minute.

A three-pointer from Nikola Jokic (36 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists) brought the Nuggets within one possession with 55 seconds remaining. The 2023 champions then had two chances to equalize or win by the skin of their teeth, but Aaron Gordon wasted the opportunity on a fast-break play and Jokic missed a final three-point shot at the buzzer, after a failed attempt by James Harden.

While James Harden shot poorly (2-for-13 from three and 6-for-23 overall), Paul George (28 points) and Ivica Zubac (14 points and 15 rebounds) were the strong men for the Clippers, who were without Kawhi Leonard. Nuggets coach Mike Malone didn’t finish the game on his bench, after being ejected for two technical fouls in the fourth quarter.

This article was originally written for L’Équipe by Arnaud Lecomte