Distracted Clippers lose Game 4, 118-97

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers lost Game 4. What a surprise. They played the game as if something else were on their collective minds, which of course it was. The series now returns to Los Angeles tied two games apiece.

That was inevitable. The Los Angeles Clippers played a flat first quarter, gave up 39 points to the Golden State Warriors, fell behind by 15 and essentially never recovered. They made a mini-run to briefly get the deficit under double digits in the fourth quarter, but when J.J. Redick missed a wide open three that would have cut the lead to seven, and instead Stephen Curry hit is seventh three to extend the lead to 13, that was that.

It's impossible to disentangle the teams' emotional state in the wake of the very public, very ugly behavior of their owner from their performance in the game. The Clippers' three point defense was tops in the league during the regular season and had been impeccable through three games -- the Warriors made 15-32 in this game. Was such a three point barrage bound to happen given the explosiveness of the Warriors? Or was a dispirited Clippers defense at fault? The answer is that both happened, but we'll always assume that things would have been different had the situation been less of a distraction.

It didn't happen that a few Warriors had unbelievable games. Andre Iguodala, who has struggled to score all series and indeed all season, scored 22 points on eight shots, making 6-8 from the field and both of his threes. Harrison Barnes was 6-7 from the field with a pair of threes. David Lee was 7-11. None of those things are likely to happen that often. By my math, Iggy, Barnes and Lee combined for a True Shooting Percentage between them in the neighborhood of 84 percent -- so that happened.

The Warriors have had no answer for Blake Griffin this series, and indeed that continued today. Griffin was 8-14 and scored 21 points -- but he also had four turnovers. In addition to Griffin's 21, Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 26, but it got pretty dicey for the Clippers after that. They got 16 from Chris Paul, 13 from J.J. Redick, 10 from Matt Barnes -- and nothing from anyone else (or next to nothing, and nothing when it mattered). Aside from Crawford, the rest of the Clippers' bench had a total of five points prior to garbage time.

And then there's DeAndre Jordan. He has dominated the series to this point, but in this game he was scoreless with just six rebounds. He logged only 25 minutes, which is his third fewest minutes under Doc Rivers -- with number one being the token one minute appearance he made in game 82 in Portland just to keep his consecutive game steak alive and a 22 minute stint in a blowout win over the Lakers. Did the Warriors small lineup force Doc Rivers hand? Did Doc decide that DeAndre's head wasn't right and he just wasn't in the game? It's difficult to say, but the chess match will continue in Game 5. Can the Clippers use their size to overpower the Warriors, or will Golden State force the Clippers to play small ball with their quickness and playmaking?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he wants to resolve the Sterling situation by Game 5 on Tuesday. The Clippers will have had a few more days to adjust to their new reality, and may be more able to focus on basketball by then: but regardless a resolution would be incredibly helpful. The symbolic gesture of wearing their warmup shirts inside out to hide the Clippers logo was powerful, as were the black socks and black arm bands -- but at the same time all of those things clearly indicated what they were thinking about today, and it wasn't the Golden State Warriors. As Doc Rivers said before the game, how do you talk about stopping Steph Curry when everyone is asking about the owner?

On the bright side, the Clippers still have home court advantage. It is now a best of three series, with the first and third games in Los Angeles. It's unrealistic to think that the Clippers can put this ugliness "behind" them by Tuesday -- but maybe will be closer to catching up to it. Winning Game 4, given the situation, was never very realistic. It's time to move on to Game 5 -- and it's way past time to do something about Donald Sterling.

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