Updated: February 23, 2012, 3:38 AM ET

1. Clippers Stop Nuggets, But Questions Remain

By Jovan Buha
TrueHoop Network

LOS ANGELES -- Their win total may have increased, but the Clippers faded into the All-Star break in a disappointing manner. Whenever Lob City appears to be on the verge of separating itself as the second-best team in the West, there always seems to be a hiccup or miscue awaiting it.

On a night when the Denver Nuggets were missing Nene, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Rudy Fernandez and Chris Andersen, the Clippers should have won with ease and rested their starters.

Instead, the Nuggets turned up the dial, cranked up the pace and ran at every opportunity. They battled for 48 minutes, forced Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to endure heavy minutes, and almost stole a road victory while playing their J.V. squad against a contender.

All signs pointed to the Clippers losing their third game in a row, dropping to 19-12 on the season, and being one game away from having that other L.A. team pass them in the standings.

But as has been the case this season, Chris Paul came to rescue. His season-high 36 points, all of which came after the first quarter, carried the Clippers to the finish line.

Nonetheless, the Clippers still have depth issues (Mo Williams, their sixth man, was a putrid 2-for-16 off the bench), play spotty rotation defense, rebound inconsistently, and are starting to die by the 3-point shot more than they are living by it.

"We played good tonight but there is a lot of room for improvement," said Paul after the game. "That is what we want, we don't want to peak in the middle of the season, we need to keep getting better."

Wednesday night had all the flash and sizzle the Clippers have become accustomed to (Griffin's dunk over three Nugget defenders was ridiculous), but none of the substance they need to realistically have a good chance to defeat the Thunders and Spurs of the world.

Before the second half of the season resumes, the Clippers need to take a hard look in the mirror. Are they the team that's defeated the Heat, Thunder, Lakers and Mavericks? Or are they the group that blew games to Minnesota, Cleveland and Golden State?

Who knows, maybe they're both. We'll have to wait and see.

Jovan Buha writes for the TrueHoop network's Clipperblog

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