DENVER — The Los Angeles Clippers are looking like a formidable playoff opponent no matter where they land in the competitive Western Conference.
J.J. Redick scored 25, DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 22 rebounds and the Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets 107-92 on Saturday night.
Chris Paul had 23 points and nine assists for the Clippers, who moved a half-game ahead of San Antonio for the fifth seed in the Western Conference with their ninth win in 10 games. They are just a game back of Memphis for the third seed and host the Grizzlies next Saturday.
"We're trending in the right direction at the right time," Redick said.
Los Angeles has just two road games remaining, although one of them is against the Lakers at Staples Center. The Clippers feel they are playing their best basketball at the right time, especially on the defensive end.
"You should be peaking because you play all year so you should get better," coach Doc Rivers said. "I've said all year defensively we've had it in us, we just didn't do it every night. Now we have the right focus."
On Saturday, the Clippers made themselves at home at Pepsi Center against a depleted Nuggets team, missing point guard and leading scorer Ty Lawson due to a sore right forearm. The Nuggets were further short-handed when backup Jameer Nelson left in the second quarter with a right hip flexor strain.
"Ty was a late scratch; we didn't anticipate that," Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt said. "And obviously when Jameer went down, those are our two rudders. They make us go. When those two guys went out, it became a game of survival at that point."
The Clippers took advantage of Lawson's absence, scoring the first 12 points and jumping out to an 18-2 lead. Los Angeles hit its first five 3-pointers and was ahead 24-6 after Redick's first 3 of the game.
The lead grew to 44-20 early in the second quarter before the Nuggets made a run to get within 13 in the final minutes of the half.
"We were executing, doing what we were supposed to do," Paul said. "We were moving the ball, getting open shots. It helps when they go in."
Los Angeles led by 16 when the Nuggets began intentionally fouling Jordan. The center, who came into the game hitting just 39 percent from the line, hit 5 of 9 before going to the bench with the Clippers up 78-64.
"I thought the game got weird," Redick said. "They played weird lineups, Blake (Griffin) was in foul trouble, they did the hack-a-DJ, they just started trapping randomly at halfcourt so it was hard for us after that first quarter to stay in a rhythm offensively."
The Clippers went more than 3 minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter but Redick's fourth 3 of the night broke the drought and gave Los Angeles a 96-78 lead.
"The first quarter killed us," Nuggets forward Will Barton said. "You could see they are getting ready for the playoffs."
HOME NOT SO SWEET: The loss assured the Nuggets of their first losing record at home since the 2002-03 season. Denver finished 17-65 and selected Carmelo Anthony in the draft that year.
Clippers: Griffin was held to 12 points, due in part to foul trouble. He finished with seven assists. ... Rivers said G Jamal Crawford, who has missed 16 games with a right calf injury, could return from a 16-game absence Tuesday against the Lakers — in the second of the team's two games in three days. "He's close," Rivers said. "The good news is that he's going to play before the season ends." ... Rivers said G Lester Hudson is a candidate to stick on the roster for the playoffs. He signed a 10-day contract on March 29. Nate Robinson, who played under two 10-day contracts, is also a possibility.
Nuggets: In addition to Lawson sitting, F Danilo Gallinari was held out of the lineup. He has not been playing the second of back-to-back games. ... F Darrell Arthur missed his sixth straight game with a sore right calf.
Clippers: At the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Nuggets: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.