The Los Angeles Clippers botched a winnable game Saturday night as their defense did not show up in a 112-115 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Tyreke Evans led the Grizzlies with a 30 point, 7 rebound, 11 assist night. The Clippers were led by Austin Rivers’ 38 points (14/20 shooting, including 5/8 from three) - a new career high in scoring. The problem for the Clippers was their lack of defense.
FIRST HALF - Memphis led 63-59
The first half witnessed both teams playing excellent offense and leaving a lot to be desired defensively. The Clippers came out making six of their first seven shots. The first quarter witnessed Austin Rivers hit four of six shots and Milos Teodosic hit all three of his shots. However the Clippers were only up 33-30 at the end of the first quarter due to an inability to keep Memphis from scoring. Even more frustrating was that the lack of defense was not necessarily due to a lack of hustle. The Clippers continued to get plenty of hustle plays from their cast of gritty players. Willie Reed in the second quarter hustled back on defense after missing a driving lay-up and was able to block a shot. Sam Dekker got an easy offensive rebound and lay-up after a miss by Montrezl Harrell. In the end, the the team’s hustle did not lead to defensive results. For the half the teams nearly mirrored each other’s offensive output as Memphis shot 24/48 including 7/12 from 3 and Los Angeles shot 24/47 including 6/18 from 3.
SECOND HALF - Memphis wins 115-112
The third quarter started with both teams being sluggish on offense. Memphis regained its touch first and was able to end the quarter ahead 90-81. Austin Rivers had 28 points (on 10/15 shooting and 4/7 from three) at the end of the third quarter and was the only consistent shooter for the Clippers. Milos Teodosic was only 4/9 at the end of the third quarter (after starting 3/3 from the field) and did not take a shot in the fourth quarter. Lou Williams mainly became a factor in the fourth quarter. He provided the Clippers with a second lethal scoring option and ended the night 10/23 from the field, 5/13 from three, and 11/12 from the free throw line.
The last minute of the game however pretty much summed up the Clippers’ night. After Lou Williams hit a three-point shot to make it a one possession game (115-112), Memphis missed on a shot with 42 seconds left. However the Clippers could not secure the rebound Memphis got another chance to put the game essentially out of reach. Even though Memphis missed, the Clippers got the ball back with basically a single possession to tie and no room for error. What unfolded however was an error. It remains to be seen what Doc Rivers drew up, but Lou Williams got the inbound pass and took too long to initiate an offensive play. With seconds winding down, Williams dribbled slightly towards the basket before trying to throw a pass back out. However the pass was directed at an area where Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic were and it was unclear who it may have been directed at. Ultimately neither got the pass as a Grizzly player instead took it towards half court before time ran out. In summary it was a terribly executed possession.
The Clippers fall to 13-19 on the season. Consistency remains lacking in the midst of bright spots from various players. Austin Rivers has had a couple amazing games and continues to show growth as a scoring guard. DeAndre Jordan had foul trouble (5), but still provided a solid game of rebounding by collecting another 18 rebounds. It is a bit concerning that the offense was literally just Williams and Rivers (combining for 42 of the team’s 79 shots) but the issue was the defense plain and simple. The team came into the game averaging 7.8 steals per game and only produced 4.
Next up for the Clippers is Tuesday night (December 26) at home against the Sacramento Kings. Tip off is 7:30 PM PST.