The Los Angeles Clippers entered Saturday’s away game against the Philadelphia 76ers on a three-game win streak and boasting the second-best record in the NBA since December 10, 2017 (17-7). They left the City of Brotherly Love with a disappointing loss due to uninspired and sluggish play. That’s not to take anything away from Philadelphia’s performance; the young and talented team was quite excellent. The Clippers simply were not.
In game-time decisions, Los Angeles point guard Milos Teodosic sat this one out, while Philly’s All-Star center Joel Embiid suited up, despite reported ankle soreness. As expected, the Clippers’ starting line-up consisted of Avery Bradley, DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari, and Tobias Harris. The 76ers began the game with Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Embiid.
The Clippers came out strong, jumping out to an early 16-10 lead. That lead would be short-lived. The 76ers went on an 8-0 run to assume control, and never looked back.
It was extremely important for the Clippers to start off this contest strong. In the 76ers’ previous two games - against the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards - they earned 30+ point first quarters, assuming strong leads that they never relinquished. Unfortunately, the same fate would become Los Angeles. The Clippers’ lax defense gave up 37 points to the 76ers in the first quarter, including six 3-pointers. The Clippers trailed 37-28 going into the second frame.
Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan had strong and noteworthy starts. Williams scored an early 10 points off the bench and Jordan had 6, showing some versatility in the paint with a dunk, a hook and a floater.
.@DeAndre gettin' it started! #First— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 11, 2018
#BOOMSHAKALAKA— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 11, 2018
Unfortunately, Jordan’s offense would cool significant for the remainder of the game. But I digress…
In the second quarter the Clippers’ uninspired defensive effort continued. The backcourt failed to adequately guard the perimeter. The 76ers were getting wide open threes and making them. Defense in the paint was just as bad; the Clippers really had no answer for the dominant Embiid or others that made their way into the paint.
The Clippers were also getting killed in transition. They could not control the pace and were beat down the court by the young Philly squad consistently throughout the game.
Off the bench, Montrezl Harrell was his typical spark-plug self. He brought energy to the floor and was not afraid to attack the basket.
Wide-open lane to the hoop! | @MONSTATREZZ— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 11, 2018
That weekend feeling pic.twitter.com/biqSWX3N6s— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) February 11, 2018
Tobias Harris was also relatively efficient offensively for the Clippers, serving as a viable third scoring option behind Williams and Gallinari.
The rest of the Clippers seemed timid, however, settling for ill-advised and contested three-pointers early in the shot clock and failing to move the ball to create higher percentage shot opportunities. Missing the long ball led to multiple fast break opportunities for Philadelphia. The 76ers were handed many easy buckets in transition, including a fist full from beyond the arc.
Philadelphia ended the second quarter on a 19-9 run, and extended their lead to 14 by the half, 69-55.
STATS AT THE HALF
- 53% field goal percentage
- 28% three-point percentage (4-8 in the first quarter; a dismal 1-10 in the second quarter)
- 14 assists
- 7 turnovers
- 5 fast break points
Lou Williams led the Clippers with 14 points off the bench. Austin Rivers contributed 10.
- 55% field goal percentage
- 59% three-point percentage (10-17)
- 21 assists
- 6 turnovers
- 20 fast break points
The 76ers ended the half with multiple players in double figures. Embiid led the way with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Redick poured in 11points. Simmons, making a strong case for Rookie of the Year honors had 10 points and 8 assists. Justin Anderson also had 10 points. T.J. McConnell (8 points, 6 assists) and Saric (8 points 3 rebounds, 3 assists) also put in solid performances.
The Clippers tightened up their defense in the third quarter; the only quarter in which they managed to outscore the 76ers. However, it was not enough for them to assume control of the game by any means. The game was so unexciting that Clippers’ broadcasters Ralph Lawler and Bruce Bowen digressed into a long discussion about Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Oh me, oh my indeed.
Philadelphia’s hot three-point shooting took a cool dip in the third quarter (1 for 10), and they got a bit sloppy with ball, committing 5 turnovers. The Clippers chipped away at the 76ers’ lead during this period but were unable to truly capitalize on the moment. Biggest problem? The Clippers had serious difficulty scoring. They were not able to control the pace or get any kind of transition offense going. They struggled with spacing and running an offense out of the half-court. Poor perimeter shooting continued, and no one was willing to go to the basket consistently with Embiid lurking in the paint. Embiid’s impact on defense was palpable. He seemed to alter shots just by looking at guys.
Going into the final frame the Clippers had cut Philadelphia’s lead to seven, trailing 85-78, but never appeared to present a serious threat. In the fourth quarter, a series of defensive lapses led to 5 consecutive easy buckets at the rim for the 76ers. The Clippers were scoring as well, but their failure to defend gained them no ground.
With a little less than eight minutes to go in regulation Embiid tweaked his knee and was forced to leave the floor. The Clippers were able to take advantage of the big man’s absence and brought the lead to two on a bucket from Harris. That was the closest the Clippers would get. A series of really possessions and turnovers led to a 7-0 run in 37 seconds by Philly, and the lead was right back up to nine.
By this time, Embiid had returned to the floor and the Clippers could not buy a bucket. Jordan and Gallo were crowding the paint and outside shots were not falling, even when uncontested. The Clippers half-hearted attempt at a comeback was a complete and utter failure.
Philadelphia secured the win 112-98.
The Clippers were underwhelming from 3-point land, going 8-32 (25%) as compared to the 76ers 13-33 (39.4%). The Clippers’ foul-shooting was also atrocious (60%, as compared to Philly’s 76.5%). However, the most significant performance difference was in fast break points. The Clippers scored only 7 fast break points in 48 minutes of play, while the 76ers scored 33. The 76ers also had 12 more assists than the Clippers.
Los Angeles ended the game with five players in double figures:
- Williams: 23 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds
- Gallo: 22 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists
- Harris: 17 points 8 rebounds, 2 assists
- Jordan: 10 points, 21 rebounds 2 assists
- Rivers: 10 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds
Philadelphia also had a balanced attack, with six guys in double figures, including Embiid, who appears to be the Clippers kryptonite. He has simply destroyed the Clippers in both contests between the franchises this season.
- Embiid: 29 pts, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks
- Redick: 17 points, 3 assists
- McConnell: 17 points, 8 assists
- Simmons: 14 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds.
- Justin Anderson: 12 points
- Saric :10 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists.
Few takeaways, good or bad, from this game. It was quite painful to watch the Clippers struggle, and their performance Saturday is not at all indicative of the potential of the current roster. Chalk this one up to an off night, after an understandably emotional Friday night match-up against the Detroit Pistons.
If I had to identify silver linings they would be: (1) that Gallinari is continuing to play well since returning from injury, averaging over 20 points per game, and (2) Williams’ continued high level of play. Williams has recorded 15+ points and 5+ assists in 12 straight games.
One thing that puzzled me from today’s game was the limitation on Harrell’s minutes. Harrell scored 8 points in just over 10 minutes of play and really deserved more time. He played with an energy that others on the squad were sorely lacking and was one of only three Clippers player with a positive +/- stat line. Doc could have given others on the bench more of a whirl as well; what was on the floor was obviously not working.
The Clippers face the Brooklyn Nets next, on Monday February 12, 2018. Tip off is at 4:30 PM PT.