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Raptors 98 - Clippers 96 (A New Low)

This game was oddly reminiscent of what it used to be like to be a Clipper fan, before last season.  Back then, they would always find a way to lose games they could have won.  Only then, they were supposedly a bad team, and they'd have a chance to beat a good team, but still lose.  Now, they're supposedly a GOOD team, and they just found a way to lose to a BAD team.

I won't dwell on this game.  I can't.  It would be too depressing.  But stretches in the third quarter and at the end of the game need to be highlighted.

After giving up 33 second quarter points to some ridiculously good jump shooting (including 5 straight threes), the Clippers trailed by 8 at halftime.  However, the Clippers opened the second half on a 14-6 run to tie the game at 64, had the ball with a chance to take the lead, and it seemed as if order had been restored.  Alas, it was not to be at that point, as the Clippers missed and Toronto scored the next 4.  Moments later, the Clippers had the ball down 1, 70-69, and with the first lead of the second half seemingly seconds away, once again it seemed as if all would be put right.  At this point, with 3:14 to go in the period:

  • Sam Cassell dribbles off his knee without a defender within 12 feet of him;

  • Sam is whistled for a clear path foul;

  • Fred Jones makes both free throws;

  • T.J. Ford makes a short jumper on the ensuing possession;

  • Cuttino Mobley is stripped of the ball;

  • Jones gets a breakaway dunk;

  • Mobley is called for a T arguing the lack of a call on his play;

  • Jones makes the technical free throw;

  • Mobley gets stripped AGAIN;

  • Kaman blocks Andrea Bargnani shot cleanly but is called for a foul;

  • Bargnani makes both free throws;

  • Elton Brand throws the ball out of bounds.

In 66 seconds, the Clippers went from down 1 with the ball, to down 10, Raptors ball.  During those 66 seconds, they did not attempt a shot.  They gave Toronto one 4 point possession with the aid of a clear path foul, and one three point possession with the aid of a Technical foul.  They committed 4 turnovers, 2 fouls and a technical foul.  You could argue that they got some tough calls (the clear path foul was not a good call, a foul could have been called on Mobley's drive, the Kaman foul was questionable), but why were they even in this position?  

Flash forward now to the last 5 minutes of the game.  After Ford makes a layup, the Raptor's lead is back to 8 with 4:58 to play.  For the next 4+ minutes, the Raptors don't make a field goal, and in fact don't even really get a decent looking shot off.  The Clippers record a couple of blocks, a couple of steals and a shot clock violation, playing really solid defense on each Raptors possession.  

Finally, after trailing the entire second half, the Clippers tie the game on an Elton Brand tip and then take the lead on two Livingston free throws with 51 seconds left.  96-94 Clippers - first lead since early in the second quarter.  less than a minute to go.  Game over, right?

Ford draws a foul from Mobley on the next possession, makes both free throws, and we're tied at 96 with 44 seconds left.  

Here's where it gets really ugly.  The Clippers decide not to call timeout.  Livingston brings the ball into the front court, and passes to Mobley with 18 seconds on the shot clock.  The Clippers appear to not know what play they are running.  Maggette wants the ball at the high post.  Meanwhile Livingston has Ford on the low block (a matchup the Clippers wanted but didn't get the whole game).  Mobley doesn't even look at Livingston.  Instead, he dribbles toward Sam, can't make a pass to him, dribbles some more, realizes the shot clock is getting low, dribbles some more, and forces a 20 footer with Fred Jones in his grill and the shot clock running out.  Air ball, Raptors rebound.

There are bad possessions, and then there are bad possessions in the final minute of tie ballgames when your team is on a 4 game losing streak.  This was the latter.  Bear in mind that the Clippers got the ball with 44 seconds on the game clock.  By conveniently dribbling until a full shot clock had elapsed, Mobley managed to give the ball back to Toronto with a chance to win the game at the buzzer.  Which they promptly did.  Ford's game winner was the first Raptor field goal in almost 5 minutes.

5 straight losses, 4 of them at home.  10-14 overall.  1 road win versus 6 home losses, tied with Memphis for worst in the conference at minus 5. With the next 3 games at Dallas, at Houston and at Utah.  

I thought these days were behind this team.  I really did.