I told you that game scared me.
Playing a game that basically counts as two in the standings, the Clippers should have been motivated from the beginning. They committed 9 first quarter turnovers, most of the "What the..." variety. After trailing the whole game, the finally retook the lead in the fourth quarter, only to fall apart at the end. This was a "step up" game, and the Clippers fell on their faces.
|© Henry Chen, all rights reserved
As I was watching it, I couldn't believe the Clippers were still in it. The only players who even showed up (Brand, Maggette and Cassell) also had 16 turnovers between them. (Actually Ross showed up too, but without anyone on the Wolves MDSr wanted to stop, Q only played 17 minutes.) Yet they were able to hang around, and were within three after three quarters. At that point, I really figured the Clippers would finally start playing and win the game. Man, I was way off.
After taking the lead for the last time at 81-80, the Clippers were outscored 21-6 in the final 6:35. That's oddly reminiscent of the game they lost to the Wolves in Minnesota, when they were outscored 19-2 in the final 5 minutes. The Clippers were 3 for 13 in the fourth quarter, Elton Brand did not score a point (0 for 3), and no one other than Shaun Livingston so much as made a basket for the last 8 minutes. Not easy to win.
The Clippers felt victimized by questionable officiating in the fourth quarter, but here's the thing about that: you still have to play the game, even if you don't like the calls. It seems as if the Clippers forgot that, which is inexcusable. The offensive foul they called on Brand when KG put his face in EB's shoulder? Questionable. The shooting foul on Livingston contesting KG's shot? Questionable. The flagrant 1 against Thomas? Questionable. But professional basketball players have to deal with that. They looked like a bunch of middle schoolers out there, waving their arms around and whining at every whistle. And obviously, they let it get to them, because they didn't even come close to recovering. The whistles and Clipper turnovers allowed the Wolves to go on a 10-0 run during which the Clippers took one shot. The 10 points, combined with the Clipper meltdown, equaled game over.
On the Keep Corey, Play Corey! front, all indications are that step one (Keep Corey) is going well, at least for this season. Sterling has made it clear that he wants Corey to stay, and it appears highly unlikely that he'll be moved before the trade deadline. As for step 2, Play Corey, well, there's still much work to be done. Consider that Corey was 5-8, with 19 points in 29 minutes last night, and compare that to Mobley's 36 minutes and Tim Thomas' 30 minutes. Those 2 combined to shoot 3 for 21, yet somehow they EACH played more than Corey. Now, I know that Maggette had 3 first half fouls which limited his minutes in the second quarter. But if you take him out in the second, how about going to him a little earlier in the third? Especially with Mobley doing nothing. But honestly, why even take him out with the third foul? Look at it this way - if a starter gets his 3rd foul in the second quarter, you sit him until half time, and he starts the third. If he picks up his fourth foul, you sit him down again. But if you're not planning on starting Corey in the third, why do you have to take him out with 3 fouls? It doesn't make sense. If he picks up his fourth, you can still bring him back about the time you were planning to, even if he had 0 fouls.
Back to the Clippers - they continue to be unimpressive and terribly disappointing. The four game winning streak was a joke, coming against three teams missing a combined 10 starters and the team with the worst record in the NBA. The last three losses on either side of the 4 game streak, on the other hand, came against only mediocre competition, and each featured a horrendous fourth quarter, which is when NBA games are won, by the way. 43 games into the season, the Clippers still have yet to play anything remotely resembling consistent basketball.