I have no idea where to start on this game. During the first half it seemed like it simply wasn't the Clippers' night, and in retrospect, we all might have been better off. The Clippers couldn't make anything, missing 10 of 11 three point attempts and any number of other wide open shots. Meanwhile, Denver could hardly miss, a phenomenon that was exemplified by back-to-back-to-back three pointers by Nate Robinson, each more ridiculous that the last. Robinson is barely in Brian Shaw's rotation these days, and here he was spearheading 11-0 runs with terrible shots that happened to go in. What are you gonna do?
Had that been the end of it, we could have written it off as one of those nights. And with the team at the very start of a stretch of four games in five nights, at least they could have rested the starters down the stretch in order to prepare for tomorrow night's game against the Bucks.
Instead the Clippers came out of the locker room at half time with a vengeance. They ran off 16 straight points to start the second half, which happened to exactly equal their halftime deficit. That run eventually grew to 28 to 5, giving the Clippers a seven point lead and it seemed like they would take control.
But things are never easy for the Clippers in Denver, and this game certainly would not be. In one sense, it's amazing that the Clippers were in this game at all, as they finished 3-18 from three point range. Outside shooting is almost always an accurate barometer for this team, and 3-18 is just brutal. (Especially when compared with Denver's 11 makes. That's 24 additional points from beyond the arc for the Nuggets.) But Denver's 21 turnovers were a counterbalance that allowed the Clippers to be in the game.
If the three point shooting was a problem for the Clippers, so were the six or so technical fouls called against them (I kind of lost track). Strangely, stupidly, many of the technicals came after a whistle had blown in favor of the Clippers. The officiating crew just had no patience for the Clippers in this game, so when Chris Paul was fouled and said something to the effect of "About damn time you called that", he was whistled for T.
Midway through the fourth quarter things got really nuts. In a period of 30 seconds, there were two flagrant fouls and three technical fouls called, a flagrant on Denver and the rest on the Clippers. Whatever DeAndre Jordan said to the official regarding Kenneth Faried's hard flagrant, the reg immediate lit Jordan up -- which led to additional T's for an angry Doc Rivers and also one on Hedo Turkoglu.
The most frustrating technical foul of the game however was yet to come. After a made basket, the ball dropped directly into Matt Barnes' path, he got it an gave it directly to the referee -- who called a delay of game, the Clippers second of the game, resulting in a technical foul. This is the ridiculous "Don't touch the ball out of the net" rule that the NBA began implementing last year, but I haven't seen as annoying an example since the preseason in 2013. It was particularly annoying given that earlier in the game, the same referee had been angry with Blake Griffin for NOT retrieving a ball that rolled towards half court. You can't really have it both ways, refs. You can't be "letter of the law" sticklers in handing out delay of game T's and at the same time ask the players for help retrieving loose balls. Make up your minds.
As we all know, the Clippers eventually lost the game by three points. So all those quick whistle technical free throws (not to mention the flagrant on DeAndre Jordan that was pretty questionable, though not really surprising to me given the way they've been calling flagrants this season) were pretty important in the final analysis.
The Clippers actually weathered the storm of free throws and fought back to take the lead again at 98-97. The Nuggets then reeled off eight in a row in short order, with Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari nailing consecutive threes.
The Clippers found themselves down six with just 20 seconds left, a seemingly hopeless situation. I mean, there aren't a lot of scenarios where you can score six unanswered points in 20 seconds. I supposed you could get a quick two, force a turnover on the inbounds pass, draw a foul, make the first free throw, rebound the miss on the second free throw and kick to an open three point shooter for the tie.
Which is exactly what the Clippers did -- only Jamal Crawford missed his open three, after which the Clippers got the rebound again only to have J.J. Redick miss a contested three, after which the Clippers got the rebound AGAIN only to have Chris Paul's three point attempt waved off as after the buzzer. Crawford's look was as open as a three pointer gets, but typical of the Clippers' night tonight, it didn't go in.
Which brings me back to the original point. Had the Clippers fallen behind and stayed behind, the Griffin and Paul and Jordan would have likely sat out the entire fourth quarter. A loss is a loss in the standings, whether you lose by 3 or 30. Instead, the Clippers most important players all played around 40 minutes, working hard to try to secure the win right up to the final buzzer. Instead, they got a frustrating loss and another game to play, back in L.A, tomorrow night.