On Wednesday night, the Clippers played a horrible first three quarters against OKC before playing excellently in the final frame to come away with a victory. Tonight, in their first game after tying the Thunder in the loss column for the third seed in the Western Conference, the script was flipped--Los Angeles jumped out to an early 17-point lead early in the second after a 37-point first quarter... and it was all downhill from there. The team was firing on all cylinders so seamlessly to open the game that it's hard to single out any specific player for his contributions, and they disappeared so utterly after about 15 minutes of play that it's hard to point to any single guy for his collapse.
Perhaps the issue originated with two of Doc Rivers' substitution decisions, which I'll nitpick in an obnoxiously Monday-morning-quarterbacking way. To begin the second quarter, Doc Rivers sent out an all-bench unit, which is a fairly common occurrence. They did fairly well throughout their first 4 minutes, only allowing a -1. However, he kept that unit out there against a mixed Hawks lineup for too long, and by the midway point of the quarter the magical opening run for the Clippers was long dead. Later on, with the game close in the second quarter, Doc folded and sat DeAndre Jordan when Mike Budenholzer employed the hacking strategy. While letting DeAndre be hacked is less than ideal, sitting him is even worse. The Clippers, especially in Blake Griffin's absence, simply struggle on the defensive glass. In the recent (elongated) stretch without Blake, the Clippers essentially need a dominant performance from Jordan around the rim and on the glass defensively to get stops. When he went to the bench in the fourth quarter tonight, the offense stayed bad, but the defense stopped being good, and the Hawks pulled away down the stretch.
Austin Rivers had a relatively good night, as did Jeff Green. Green made 2-4 from deep and 6-9 from the field en route to 14 points, and actually had a good stint as the primary ball handler for the second unit in the fourth quarter. However, poor nights from Paul (6-16) and Redick (4-13) essentially doomed the Clippers from the start--it's all but impossible for these Griffin-less Clippers to win games when both of those two aren't hitting shots.
Overall, this was just one bad game, and it's not the end of the world or the Clippers' three-seed hopes. However, every loss is huge at this stage in the season with the race so tight against Oklahoma City. The Clippers visit the Thunder next Wednesday in another game with huge playoff seeding implications.