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Denver 107 - Clippers 94

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Final - 3.14.2009 1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Clippers 17 29 25 23 94
Denver Nuggets 24 27 34 22 107

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Well, that's two and a half hours of my life I'm not getting back.

Let's be clear. When the Clippers lose a 19 point fourth quarter lead to Cleveland, it's bad. But this is a whole new level of bad. Because against the Cavs, at least the played like they cared for three full quarters. Even in the fourth, they cared - they just got complacent and ran into a buzz saw named LeBron.

Not being able to stop LeBron James is one thing. But the Clippers didn't lose this game to Carmelo Anthony or Chauncey Billups or even Nene, none of whom had a particularly good game. They lost it to Renaldo Balkman and Chris Andersen, who played with an energy that the Clippers just couldn't be bothered to match.

Marcus Camby was apparently just happy to be among his Mile High friends - that was enough for him, and keeping track of Balkman or finishing layups was not on his busy Denver schedule. Chris Kaman was just plain terrible, with 4 turnovers and 6 fouls in 25 minutes. And if I see Baron Davis get run down on one more breakaway I'm going to scream. Haven't we been told that the problem is that MDsr's overly regimented offense won't let him run? Letting him run has nothing to do with it - he CAN'T run. He can't finish a fast break with a HEAD START!

What's especially frustrating is that this game was completely winnable. The Nuggets were terrible - TERRIBLE - but the Clippers were far worse. It was also a brutally ugly game: 77 free throws (and 21 misses); 39% shooting by the Clippers. LA was outrebounded by 26 - TWENTY-SIX! - how did they lose by only 13? I'll tell you how - Denver had 22 turnovers; not that the Clippers were forcing them, Denver just gave the ball away 22 times for no particular reason.

One thing we haven't done very often is compare this season to last. The Clippers have certainly been beset by injuries this season, but they pale in comparison to last season. And yet that Clippers team had 21 wins after 65 games. There's no way - NO WAY - this team should finish worse than the 07-08 Clippers, and yet it would take a miracle to avoid it at this point. They'll have to go 8-9 in their final 17 games to match last year's win total - they'll have to play better than .500 ball to beat it.

These last 17 games are important for somebody: I'm just not sure whom. I'm not convinced that MDsr's job is in jeopardy - I just don't think Sterling is going to walk away from that contract. But if it's not MDsr for whom these games are crucial, then it's Sterling and Roeser. Because if this team doesn't play well in the final month - bearing in mind that Zach is back tomorrow night and the roster is as healthy as they've been all year and healthier than most NBA teams - and they DON'T fire the coach, they will solidify their position as the laughing stocks of the league. Sterling and Roeser will be pulling for a turnaround more than anyone else - not so much because they want the team to do well, but mainly to provide cover for keeping MDsr around at least another season.