After trying very hard to give a game away on Saturday, the Clippers put in the extra effort to get the job done tonight. It just shows what you can do if you really put your mind to it.
Leading the Heat by 8 points with 82 seconds left in the last game, the Clippers gave up the final 7 points and also gave the Heat one shot at the win which came up short. Tonight, they led by 7 with a little more than 2 minutes to go, and allowed the Mavs to score the final 9 points for the 2 point victory. When JJ Barea made a three pointer in the final minute it was the Mavericks first lead of the game. So for the record, the Clippers led for 47 minutes and 10 seconds, and the Mavs led for 50 seconds. But the Mavs led the only time it counts.
The Clippers actually had to work extra hard to give this one away. They led by 15 in the fourth quarter, and by 12, 96-84, with 5 minutes to play. In the final 5 minutes they were outscored 16 to 2.
During those final 5 minutes, the Clippers seemed to be simply trying to run out the clock. Dallas switched to a zone defense, and the Clippers seemed to be content to pass the ball around the perimeter until they forced a long jumper late in the clock. Zach Randolph, who had 27 points on 12 for 17 shooting and had been basically unstoppable in his first 37 minutes of play, was essentially non-existent in the final 5 minutes. Maybe they haven't had enough practice time with Z-Bo against zones. Truth be told, the Clippers have looked absolutely terrible against zones all season; I don't know why more teams don't play it against them. Everyone's going to credit Carlisle with the brilliant adjustment to switch his defense. Here's my question: what took you so long genius? You could have won this game by 50 if you'd just started in the stupid zone!
In their final 9 possessions, the Clippers turned the ball over 3 times, and took 4 long jumpers - one of which actually went in. They did manage to get one good shot - a short baseline jumper by Eric Gordon with just under a minute to go and LA still clinging to a 2 point lead. If that jumper goes in, they probably hold on for the win.
On the final few possessions, Gordon looked like the 19 year old rookie he is for the first time since he's been in the starting lineup. On one possession in the final 2 minutes, he took a long three with 8 seconds still on the shot clock. That in and of itself is not a great idea, but you like the kid's confidence, and he's been making long three's all season. The trouble is, he missed badly - as badly as I've ever seen him miss. The long rebound led to an easy fast break and a layup for Jason Terry. On his baseline jumper a couple possessions later, EJ really looked tentative - he looked like he did not want to take the shot.
These are some of the growing pains of having a 19 year old in the starting lineup. He's going to be a great player, and he's already pretty good. But he seemed overwhelmed in the fourth quarter of this one.
That makes half of their last eight games that the Clippers have lost on the last possession. What's particularly disconcerting is that they have failed to get a decent shot in each and every one of those situations. Against the Spurs, needing a three, the complex play they ran resulted in Baron Davis running away from the basket as time expired. Against the Sixers, Baron tried to create and forced a wild shot at the buzzer. Against the Nuggets, they chose not to call a timeout, and ended up with Marcus Camby taking his one and only three point shot of the season on the final play. Tonight, whether it was MDsr's play or simply Baron free-lancing, Davis just dribbled for awhile and then shot a long three.
And yet again the Clippers made a relative NBA unknown look like an All Star. Continuing in the tradition of Paul Millsap, Beno Udrih, Anthony Morrow and Roger Mason, JJ Barea had a season high 15 points and 6 assists on 7 for 11 shooting in 25 minutes of play.
What's truly frustrating about this game is how thoroughly the Clippers outplayed the Mavericks for 43 minutes. But in the final 5 minutes, they lost the game to a junk lineup (JJ Barea and Brandon Bass joining Kidd, Nowitzki and Terry) playing a junk defense.