LOS ANGELES, CA – No Kawhi Leonard? No problem. Behind a collective bench effort led by Russell Westbrook and the LA Clippers fended off Nikola Jokic and the defending NBA Champion Denver Nuggets in a thrilling victory.

The Clippers defeated the Nuggets in Los Angeles, 102-100. Paul George led the way for LA with 28 points, four rebounds, two assists, and three steals on 10-of-21 shooting. James Harden added 20 points, six rebounds, and eight assists, but did so on just 6-of-23 shooting. Ivica Zubac, who got off to a rough start, finished the night with 14 points and 15 rebounds.

After trailing by 12 in the opening minutes of the game, however, it was the Clippers bench that brought the team back from what felt like a sure-fire loss. Russell Westbrook scored 12 points and dished out five assists while Norman Powell scored 11 points and Amir Coffey added nine points.

As a team, the Clippers bench outscored Denver's 34-9, proving to be the difference makers.

Nikola Jokic

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic controlled the contest, finishing with 36 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists in what was his 129th career triple-double. As dominant as Jokic has been, he's still 79 triple-doubles away from the all-time leader Russell Westbrook, who has 198.

“”Well listen, ain’t nobody like me,” Russell Westbrook told ClutchPoints when asked about fellow triple-double monster Nikola Jokic. “Ain't nobody like me. We’re gonna stop that right there. Nobody like me. Nikola is a hell of a player, but he’s not me, I’m not him. Obviously, he's won MVP twice, maybe once, a tough guard, excellent passer, knows how to play the right way, competes hard. Tonight, we got the best of him.”

Despite the glowing answer about the himself versus the league's two-time MVP, who also has the potential to win his third this year, Westbrook followed it up for even more praise for Nikola Jokic.

“High IQ. Very, very high. Knows how to play the game very well, knows where guys are gonna be. He does a good job of playing with great pace, especially against us.”

Nikola Jokic saw opportunities for the Nuggets to grab control of the game, but were never able to. The 17-point first quarter lead was quickly squandered and Denver never led in the second half.

“They're a talented team,” Nikola Jokic said of the Clippers. “They're a talented group of people and they know what they have to do. We had the lead in the first quarter and the. It was just like a detail and little things. I think we had opportunities to win the game, we just didn't take it.”

James Harden

The league's 2017-18 MVP might have turned a corner as far as offensive production goes and it's a welcome sight with Kawhi Leonard still sidelined.

James Harden shot just 6-of-23 (26 percent) from the field in Thursday night's win. Still, it's a massive victory for the Clippers if you've watched them play, mostly due to Harden's lack of shot attempts over the last few weeks.

Coming into Thursday's game, Harden had 19 games this season with three or fewer made field goals. The only two other seasons in which he had more games with three or fewer field goals made were in his rookie (50 games) and sophomore (44 games) seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

James Harden and head coach Tyronn Lue had discussed different ways to use the guard, including setting him up with more isolation opportunities.

According to NBA.com/stats, James Harden is one of the league's best isolation players this season. In fact, Among players who currently attempt 3 isolations per game, Harden ranks fourth behind Kawhi Leonard, Dejounte Murray, and DeMar DeRozan at 1.12 points per isolation. That also ranks ahead of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum.

“I mean, I didn’t make any shots, but the shit felt good,” James Harden said after the win. “I ain’t going to lie. In my mind, I’ve got the scoring mentality still. So, it’s like, I missed and I took 13 threes, if four more goes in, that’s a killer game. You know, the shots don’t go in, but I think most of them were really good shots.”

Nikola Jokic also explained the difficulty of being in a situation like Harden's, where a player is an absolutely gifted scorer and playmaker.

“It's hard to when you play with a couple really good players with you because you want to get them involved because you know they can score 30 or 40 any given night,” Jokic said of Harden. “I think he developed into a great facilitator. He's finding the open guy. Yes, maybe he missed a couple shots, but he's capable of having amazing nights.”

Russell Westbrook wasn't overly concerned with James Harden's recent scoring issues when asked about them.

“It's part of the game. I believe the game always tells you what to do. So whenever the game is asking of, if that's scoring, if that's passing, then James is smart enough to figure out what that is.”

James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the Clippers don't have too much time to enjoy this win over the Nuggets as they'll turn to face the Utah Jazz 16 hours after their win over Denver.