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Toronto 104 - Clippers 89 - Another Fourth Quarter Collapse

It's difficult to overstate exactly how terrible the Clippers have been in fourth quarters this season, particularly down the stretch.  They scored 10 points total in the fourth in losing to Oklahoma City Wednesday night.  They scored 13 points in the fourth quarter against Dallas, zero in the last 4:30 and two in the final 710.  Utah doubled them up, 28-14, turning a one point game into a laugher.  They lost a seven point lead in the final six minutes against Phoenix.  And they scored only 17 against the Lakers.  With tonight's 104-89 loss to the Raptors, there is a common theme in six of the seven Clipper losses this season - the fourth quarter has killed them.

The truth of this game is that other than a stellar first quarter after which they led 34-17, none of the remaining quarters were particularly good for the Clippers.  They were outscored 28-20 in the second, 29-20 in the third.  But they reached deep and found that extra level of ineptitude in the fourth.  They lost the quarter 30-15, and allowed the Raptors to run off the game's final 16 points over the last 6:45.  They say that it's not how you start, it's how you finish.  Well, the Clippers scored 39 points in the first 13 minutes of the game... and none in the last 6.  So take that for what it's worth.

Why have the Clippers had such trouble in the fourth quarter?  Well, the answer is probably pretty simple.  Good teams play their best when the game is on the line - and the Clippers are not a good team.  At least they're not playing like a good team.  It's no coincidence that they were able to outscore opponents like the Timberwolves, Warriors and Grizzlies in the final period - those teams are really bad, even worse than the Clippers.  But against solid, or even non-horrible, competition, the Clippers are simply outclassed down the stretch.

I've got a big day of soccer coaching tomorrow - two games each for the two kids.  So I need to get this wrapped up and get to bed.  I'll leave you with a few random bullet points:

  • When Chris Bosh was held without a field goal in the first quarter, there was a brief feeling of "Maybe Camby's got his number tonight."  But deep down, you knew it wouldn't last.  Bosh finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists.
  • Jose Calderon, who has been having a bit of an off-year, was magnificent in the second half.  He scored nine straight Raptors points in the third to single-handedly take the lead.  Marco Belinelli can play some two.
  • Milph kept talking about the third quarter, but it seems to me the game was lost in the second.  After bulding a 22 point lead, the Clippers completely lost their intensity and at one point gave up a 14-1 run.  With the lead down to manageable single digits at halftime, the Raptors went into the locker room with all the momentum.  Building a big early lead is useless if you just give it all back. 
  • After seeing only spot duty and garbage minutes in the first 9 games of the season, Steve Novak got 17 minutes in tonight's game.  I'm not sure if MDsr saw a matchup he thought Novak could handle defensively - it was strange that Novak ended up on Turkoglu several times, as that is certainly not a matchup you'd want.  At any rate, Novak got the minutes that would otherwise have been going to Ricky Davis, and some from Rasual Butler as well.  I must say it's nice having another shooter on the floor.
  • Butler was cut back from about 38 minutes he'd played in the last three close games, to 31 tonight.  Why?  Because he can't shoot.  He was 2 for 10 for the second game in a row, and 1 for 6 on threes.  He's 21 for his last 74 overall and 10 for his last 40 threes.  He's killing the team right now.
  • Chris Kaman was great for three quarters - and then he disappeared.  He was 8 for 10 at one point, and finished the game 10 for 16 for 25 points.  Of course, this is part of the team's fourth quarter funk.  Kaman is not really cut out to be a go to scorer.  When he gets the ball in pressure situations, he feels it.  Some guys thrive on that pressure - Kaman is not one of those guys.  After his ugly 'jump in the air behind the backboard and throw the ball to the other team' play Wednesday against the Thunder, he actually came up with something worse.  The 'get the ball under the basket, fake three times and flip an underhand airball into the air.'
  • I haven't gone through game logs to check, but anecdotally, doesn't it seem like Baron Davis is getting 5 or 6 assits in the first few minutes of every game - and then 1 or 2 more the rest of the way?  I know I heard Milph say that Baron had 5 assists midway through the first quarter of this game - he finished with 7.  I'm fairly certain there have been other similar cases.  So what's happening?  Why is the ball moving so well in the first quarter, and dying later in the game?  (Of course it's hard to earn assists when your teammates can't make any shots.)

Note that Marc Stein reported earlier today that Donald Sterling "has already flirted seriously with the idea of dismissing Mike Dunleavy immediately."  With the team losing a 22 point lead and the fans loudly booing by the end of this one, one would think that we'd be moving past flirting at this point.