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Clippers Fall Short Against Sixers, 110-121

Despite the return of Blake Griffin, the L.A. Clippers struggled against a scrappy Philadelphia 76ers squad.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The L.A. Clippers got off to a hot start offensively, particularly from behind the arc. But despite leading by as many as 19 points, they let the Philadelphia 76ers will their way to a 121-110 victory.

At halftime, the Clippers led 68-59, while shooting 53.8% from the field and 63.2% from behind the arc (12-19). They dominated the boards 29-16 at that point, and Griffin appeared to acclimate well even in limited minutes. By game’s end, though, their 52.9% shooting from three-point range and 110 points didn't even matter, because Philly had capitalized upon poor defense and converted it into a massive scoring burst, leading by 11 at the final buzzer.

In the end, six Sixers players scored in double-digits, while the remaining contributors had 9, 9, 8, and 7 points, respectively. The Sixers tallied 35 assists on 45 made field goals, while the Clippers tallied just 17 assists on 33 shots-made. The Clippers’ loss was just as much about them giving it away as it was about the Sixers taking it from them.

Dominating the Paint

The Sixers outscored the Clippers 66-20 in the painted area, a 46-point differential; this is a number that is simply unacceptable. For added perspective, the Sixers came into tonight’s game ranking dead last in Offensive Rating (98.3).

Despite the Clippers’ front court size and depth, especially with Griffin’s return, they allowed layup after layup during the second half, allowing every Sixers player who stepped on the floor to get involved. Nerlens Noel led the way for the Sixers (19 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals in 29 minutes, 8-of-10 field goals made), while standout performances by less likely contributors Richaun Holmes (18 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block in just 19 minutes, 8-of-11 field goals made), Dario Saric (16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal in 26 minutes), and Robert Covington (14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, and 2 blocks) helped the second half surge.

By contrast, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, Wesley Johnson, and Luc Mbah a Moute, the entire Clippers front court, combined for just 39 points on 10-of-24 shooting. The Clippers backcourt, led by Jamal Crawford’s 27 points, J.J. Redick’s 22 points, and Austin Rivers’ 20 points, followed by Raymond Felton’s contribution of just 2 points, accounted for 64.5% of the team’s total scoring; just four players accounted for more than half the team’s final tally. Even though the Clippers guards often favored downhill basketball, the team will need to find ways to get the front court players better-involved offensively. In addition, the Clippers front court will need to become more engaged at the defensive end and make their interior presence known.

Taking Care of the Ball

Turnovers were a major factor in this game. The Clippers committed 19 turnovers while giving up 36 points off of those turnovers, more than three times the final point-differential. The Sixers, who rank second-to-last in the league in turnovers committed (16.9 average per game), only turned the ball over 6 times. Of those 6 turnovers, the Clippers were only able to salvage 8 points. The Clippers, traditionally, take care of the ball fairly well, especially against sub-.500 teams, but without Chris Paul and against a Sixers team that simply gave far more effort, they were outmatched.

Relying on the Three-Ball

Getting off to a hot start from behind the arc is usually a welcomed sign for the Clippers. Coming off a 115-105 win against the Atlanta Hawks on the road, where they shot 58.3% from behind the arc (14-of-24), continuing to watch the three-ball fall was just what they needed to see. And notably, Jamal Crawford, who had been in the midst of a long shooting slump, appeared to return to form. By halftime, Crawford was 4-of-6, Austin Rivers was 3-of-4, J.J. Redick was 3-of-5, and Marreese Speights was 2-of-4, all from behind the arc. But getting used to watching those drop can become a slippery slope.

As a team, the Clippers shot 10 more threes in the second half and made just 4. Their offense became reliant upon it, and when the Sixers, who had them outsized and well-guarded from behind the arc, challenged accordingly, the Clippers panicked. Offensive sets turned into both forced and unforced turnovers, including a couple shot-clock violations. Three point shots can get a team out of a bind or build momentum in a hurry, but when they don’t fall, it can become the difference in a game.

Good News and Bad News

The Good News:

The Clippers have until Friday to rest, re-group, watch film, and basically hit the reset button. Griffin shook off his rust and got his anticipated return-game out of the way. This game against the Sixers was night two of a back-to-back on the road, both early games for them (4:00pm PST start times); every now and then, fatigue becomes a factor and outliers losses occur. Look forward to a better, more complete matchup when the Clippers face the Sixers next in mid-March. Now...

The Bad News:

The Clippers, still without Chris Paul, have to face the Golden State Warriors on Friday. The Warriors are not only 1st in the league in terms on wins and losses (38-7), they also rank 1st in Offensive Rating (113.2) and in Defensive Rating (101.0). In addition, the Warriors are the best team in January, with a 9-2 record and an 0.82 win-percentage. It’s going to take more than some timely threes to even compete. The Clippers will need to be far more aggressive defensively, much more engaged than they were tonight, and even more selfless. The Clippers must take advantage of the time they have to rest and figure out how they can improve during this tough road stretch.

Up Next:

L.A. Clippers at Golden State Warriors

Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA 5:30pm PST

ABC, AM 570