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Clippers Rally But Can’t Overcome the Heat, Lose 104-101

A valiant fourth quarter effort by the Clippers was not enough to make up for three quarters of passionless play.

NBA: Miami Heat at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers outscored the Miami Heat 35-15 in the final quarter of their contest on Sunday, nearly pulling off a miraculous comeback. Unfortunately, James Johnson made two free throws with 8.7 seconds left to save the game for Miami, who improve to 4-5 for the season. The Clippers fall to 5-4 with the loss.

Here are the highlights (and lowlights).

First Half

The Clippers started off the game with the same lack of intensity and engagement that they demonstrated in Saturday’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies. Miami was able to score at will, both in the paint and from outside. The Clippers were not rotating effectively on defense, leading to open shots and uncontested layups. Guys like James Johnson took full advantage of the lapses, making it to the basket like a like a hot knife through butter. The Heat ended the first quarter on a 20-8 run.

The Clippers gave up 34 points total in the first 12 minutes, including five three-pointers. Goran Dragic and Johnson led the Heat, with 8 and 9 points respectively.

By the half, the Heat had racked up 62 points on 52 percent shooting against the Clippers. The Heat bench contributed more than half of those points (33), led by Tyler Johnson who had 16. Notably, this was the second consecutive game in which the Clippers defense gave up 60+ points by halftime; the Grizzlies had 60 at the half on Saturday.

Offensively, the Clippers did not fare much better. They shot a dismal 27.3 percent in the first quarter, and only a slightly better 38.6 percent for the half. Open shots were hard to come by without defensive stops and transition offense. Out of a set offense, the Clippers had difficulty moving the ball; there was no chemistry or rhythm. At half-time, the Clippers starting 1 and 2 guards – Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers - combined for only 1 assist between them. That is simply unacceptable, and certainly won’t win games.

The ball spent an unreasonable amount of time in Blake Griffin’s hands, and there was too much pressure on him to back defenders down and score. Griffin’s body can’t take that kind of beating all season, and his play-making abilities are wasted with that kind of offensive strategy. Griffin’s teammates need to move off the ball and cut to the hoop looking for him to pass. When that does happen - as it did in the second quarter with Wes Johnson – it’s magic.

Turnovers also killed the Clippers. They turned the ball over 11 times in 24 minutes, leading to 16 points for Miami.

One of very few bright spots for the Clippers in the first half came at the end of the second quarter. With 1.9 seconds left on the clock, Willie Reed stole an inbounds pass and launched a three-pointer from the corner while falling out of bounds. The shot splashed just as time expired.

Second Half

Fans were hopeful that Reed’s buzzer beater at the end of the half would create some momentum for the Clippers as they entered the third quarter. Not so. The squad continued its lackluster play at both ends of the floor, but without starter Danilo Gallinari, who did not return after leaving the game late in the second quarter with a left hip contusion. The Heat extended their lead to a game-high 25 points, and led by 23 going in to the final quarter. The game appeared unsalvageable. Fans started exiting the Staples Center, and chants of “Let’s Go Heat” could be heard - loudly - from within the home crowd.

Yet, surprisingly, the Clippers had some life left in them. They locked in on defense, holding the Heat scoreless for more than five minutes and causing them to turn over the ball seven times. The Clippers outscored the Heat 35 - 11 to take a 101-100 lead with 16.3 seconds left in regulation. The comeback was spearheaded by the energetic play of Clippers reserves Reed, Sam Dekker and Sindarius Thornwell, and the offensive efforts of Sweet Lou Williams and Griffin.

Beverley also played a major role, bringing necessary intensity and hustle. He came up with a number of key possessions and rebounds down the stretch.

Ultimately, however, the Clippers’ last ditch effort was not enough. At the 16.3 second mark, with the Clippers up 101-100, Rivers forced a steal and was fouled. At the line, he missed a pair of foul shots that would have extended the Clippers’ lead to three. James Johnson was fouled on the following possession and hit both his free throws to put Miami back in front with 8.7 seconds left on the clock. The Clippers utilized two time outs to draw up a final play - an unsuccessful Griffin fadeaway jump shot over the outstretched hands of lengthy Hassan Whiteside. Josh Richardson picked up the rebound for Miami, was fouled, and made his two free throws to ice the win.

Whiteside led the Heat with 21 points and 17 rebounds, while Griffin led the Clippers with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.

Silver Linings

  • The Clippers ended the game with five players in double figures. As the season progresses, and particularly when master facilitator Milos Teodosic returns to the lineup, the fact that the Clippers have numerous players they can count on to score will be very beneficial.
  • DeAndre Jordan has continued to play well this young season, contributing buckets and dominating the boards. He finished with 19 rebounds and 10 points in today’s contest.
  • If the Clippers can fix their problems on defense, there is no doubt their offense will fall into place. The fact that the Clippers had only 5 total assists today (as compared to Miami’s 14), illustrates just how stagnant their offense is when they are not getting defensive stops and pushing the pace.

Next up: the Clippers face the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio on November 7, 2017 at 5:30 PM PT. Eight of the Clippers’ next nine games are on the road.