The Clippers starters have spent a lot of time on the bench in fourth quarters this season because the games have not been in doubt. - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
In nine Clipper games this season there has been exactly one fourth quarter lead change -- and that occurred early in the fourth quarter of the first game. The Clippers have left little doubt in their wins, but been unable to come all the way back in their two losses.
Let me say up front that this is not meant to be a hand-wringing post worrying about a potential weakness in the Los Angeles Clippers. The team is 7-2 with a Western Conference best +9.3 point differential against a decidedly top heavy slate of opponents so far. That's all good.
This is more just pointing out a curiosity, a statistical anomaly that you just wouldn't expect to see over the course of any long stretch of NBA basketball.
Nine games into the season, Clippers games have featured one fourth quarter lead change.
One time in nine games, one time in 108 minutes of fourth quarter basketball. And by the way, that one lead change occurred exactly 69 seconds into the fourth quarter of the first game against the Grizzlies. So for the last 106 minutes and 51 seconds, there have been zero fourth quarter lead changes.
In their seven wins, the Clippers have been in control down the stretch of every one. If you define a crunch time possession as coming in the final five minutes of a one possession game, then the Clippers have yet to have even one of those in their wins.
The two losses are a slightly different story. Once again there were no lead changes in those two games as the Clippers never managed to take the lead in either, but they did manage to tie the score in each of them -- with 4:31 left against Cleveland, and with two minutes left against Golden State. Unfortunately, the team was unable to get over the hump in either case.
Which is a little weird, but not enough to be considered a trend by any means. With Chris Paul at the helm, the Clippers should be one of the best teams in basketball at winning close games. But so far this season, they've lost two close ones -- and haven't had to worry about their seven wins. I repeat, this is not a problem -- you'll always take 7-2 and you'd always prefer not to have to go to the wire. Winning comfortably has allowed the Clippers to keep everyone's minutes low, which will almost certainly pay dividends in the long run.
But somehow I think things may get a little tougher for the team down the stretch in places like San Antonio and Oklahoma City this week. We can hope to control the fourth quarter in the same way, but it's a tall order. More likely we should be content if the team has a chance down the stretch in these difficult road games.
Hopefully they can make the most of their chance if they get it.