Life after Chris Paul has also been mostly a life without an injured Blake Griffin. As such, the 2017-2018 Los Angeles Clippers can best be described as a team without a distinctive face. That is no slight to Lou Williams or DeAndre Jordan, but both players have been support players in their careers that have had specific roles (score, rebounds, etc.) in the past that they have continued to do well so far in this season.
The Clippers’ loss against the Miami Heat on Saturday night highlighted life without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The team as a whole played hard on the second game of a back-to-back set. Coming in the Clippers were win-less in three attempts on such games (with the Heat were also win-less in two attempts themselves). Alas playing hard does not always lead to winning results. While the defense showed hustle, the game was low scoring. The Clippers had plenty of instances where there was no clear leader initiating the offense. While the ball was consistently passed around, there seemed to be a lack of a plan. This was partly due to Lou Williams’ poor shooting night as he shot 4-16 overall after starting the game 0-10. Milos Teodosic did step up in the fourth quarter with 10 of his 13 points coming in the fourth quarter. However, his shooting overall was poor as he went 5-14 including 2-10 from three. Indeed, it seemed that Milos was forcing shots up at times as he was trying to lead the Clippers.
QUARTER BY QUARTER
First Quarter – Heat lead 24-17
Miami started the game 5-0 before Jordan scored on a dunk from a Wes Johnson feed.
The Clippers shot poorly from the field overall for the quarter with an 8-21 start that included 1-7 from three. Lou Williams was 0-5 shooting. DeAndre Jordan led the team with 8 points 8 rebounds in 12 minutes. The Heat were balanced and led by Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic as they combined for 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in the initial quarter.
Second Quarter – Heat lead 46-40
The Clippers started the quarter on a 6-0 run. With just under nine minutes left Sam Dekker had an impressive drive to rim and dunk attempt that just didn’t stay in. The Clippers were led by Montrezl Harrell as he scored 12 points in the quarter in just 7.5 minutes. The problem for the Clippers however was their lack of outside shooting. At one point the Clippers had 28 of 32 points to start the game in the paint. Lou Williams was 1-10 in the first half (with 5 assists and 3 turnovers). The good guys shot a putrid 2-11 from 3 and missed their own two free throw attempts in the entire half.
Third Quarter - Heat lead 69-65
The Clippers fell behind at one point early in the quarter by 11 points, but clawed back to within 1 point near the end of the quarter. The bench led the way by shooting 12-23 for 27 of the 65 team points.
While Lou Williams was 2-4 in quarter, the team’s lack of a clear leader on offense was also its strength as various players took turns scoring. Thankfully the team played pretty well defensively the entire time as they continued to show pretty good energy (albeit with the occasional lapse).
Fourth Quarter – Heat survive 90-85
Harrell continued his strong play with a glorious block. His final line for the game 7=10 from the field for 15 points (along with 2 rebounds and 2 blocks). The Clippers continued to keep the game close and finally tied the game at 69-69 with 10:21 left in the game and took a brief lead with 6:09 left after Teodosic hit a three. The quarter remained a back-and-forth affair and with about 40 seconds left and the Clippers down by 1 point the Clippers played excellent defense and forced Goran Dragic to shoot a terrible three-point attempt that hit only backboard. The Clippers called timeout with 32.8 seconds to draw a play. That play may have worked as Lou Williams hit a three-point shot on the next play…except he was called for a foul after he pushed off Josh Richardson moments before receiving the pass that set up the shot. From there the Clippers would foul the Heat and the Heat would hit four of five eventual free-throw attempts (one coming on a technical foul against Doc Rivers).
In the end, the Clippers did not have a finisher to carry them over the finish line. DeAndre Jordan lead the team with 12 points and 20 rebounds, but he is not the player a team will look to for closing out games. With an off-night for both Lou Williams and Teodosic (combining for 9-30 shooting…) the Clippers could not ride their (remaining) role players to a victory. Nevertheless, it is good to see that the team continues to play hard and have its defense keep them in games. They continue to gain valuable experience and it bodes well for the future. With the hopeful imminent returns of Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers, perhaps the Clippers offense can get the stabilizing force it desperately needs.
The good guys fall to 11-17 overall and sit 2.5 games back of the 8th seed. The Clippers will look to get back into the win column Monday night at San Antonio against the Spurs at 5:30 PM PST.