The good news is that the Clippers have figured out how to avoid those heartbreaking losses in close games. Never, ever play another close game. Either win by 20 or lose by 20. That way, the inability to close out a tight one is a non-issue.
In their last 10 games, the closest one was a 12 point loss in Washington. They are 2-8 in that span, and 5 of the 8 losses were by 20 or more, as were the two wins.
If you want to beat the traffic at the end of a Clipper game, no problem. You can always leave midway through the fourth.
What is there left to say about this team? The Clippers took all of the momentum into this game, riding the crest of a wave that saw them win back to back road games by 20+ while shooting 59% and 57%. They were facing a Bobcats team missing two starters, and trying to integrate a new player, on a five game losing streak. Yes, the Clippers were on the final night of a seven game road trip, but that excuse doesn't really ring true. After all, they won the sixth game of the road trip in convincing fashion - how can fatigue be the excuse when it wasn't a factor in Atlanta?
The last four games stand in fascinating juxtaposition to each other. Orlando buried the Clippers in three pointers and had the game completely put away in the third quarter. The Clippers turned around and buried the Grizzlies in three pointers and put the game away early. Saturday in Atlanta, the Clippers shared the ball well, and took care of it very well - as a team, they had 38 assists and 6 turnovers, a ratio of 6.3 to one. Monday in Charlotte, they were a mess handling the ball - 20 assists against 18 turnovers, a ratio of 1.1 to one.
And then there is the shooting. 59% in Memphis, 57% in Atlanta - they scored 120+ in each of those games. In Charlotte, they shot 39% and scored 73 points. 30 in the second half. 12 in the fourth quarter. They also stunk from distance after being great for consecutive games - they were 3 for 16 tonight, with Novak the author of all three makes. In the last two games, the Clippers have given up 97 points to the Hawks, and 94 points to the Bobcats. Seems like consistency there, doesn't it? They won the first by 24, lost the second by 21. I figured out a long time ago that the game is a lot easier, and a lot more fun, when the ball is going in the hole. Sometimes, it's just not your night and the ball doesn't go in. But the good teams don't have those kinds of nights very offten.
Al Thornton is a microcosm of the team's inconsistency these last two games. After playing one of the best all around games of his career in Atlanta (31 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists), he was sub-terrible tonight: 6 points on 13 shots, 0 free throws, 2 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 turnovers. In addition to Thornton, Baron Davis shot badly even for him (1 for 7) and Ricky Davis totally lost his recent groove (1 for 6). That's 5 for 26 from three of the top five scoring threats on the team. It's very, very hard to win doing that.
The other two scorers (Zach Randolph and Eric Gordon) were pretty good; 20/10 for Z-bo, 17 on 7 for 13 shooting from Gordon. But it just wasn't enough. Not to overcome a minus 11 on the boards and 18 turnovers with no help.
We knew it couldn't be as easy as it seemed those last two games. But does it have to be this hard? Can we find a middle ground? Even if it means playing a close game?