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Clippers Lose Heartbreaker to Pacers, 111-104

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This was a rough, rough loss for the Clippers, as it pushes their playoff dreams nearly out of reach.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Summary:

The Clippers started off the game well, looking locked in on both ends. They moved the ball well on offense, pressured the Pacers’ ball-handlers, and forced turnovers. The Pacers kept trying to go to the post with Myles Turner and Thad Young, but the Clippers didn’t back down, and were able to keep them away from the rim. They got a bit sloppy in the middle of the quarter with some bad turnovers, but recovered nicely, and the second unit continued the activity that the starters established.

The second quarter also began with promise, as the Clippers’ reserve unit looked fantastic—Doc bolstered the bench with Tyrone and Gallo, and the mixed lineup played extremely well together. Gallo made a couple nice drives, Lou was getting to his spots, and Trez was doing Trez things. They forced a quick timeout by Nate McMillan, who had to put his starters back in. They slowly cut away at the Clippers’ lead, and Doc followed suit with his starters a little over halfway through the period. After that, things fell apart—the Clippers were outscored 19-4 the last 6:38 of the quarter, seeing a 16 point lead dwindle to just 1. Their offense stopped generating good looks, and they allowed Oladipo to get going on the other end.

The third quarter was little better for the Clippers. Their offense continued to sputter, failing to create any looks, and missing the rare open shots that were found. The only good news was that their defense tightened up, and the Pacers were unable to take advantage of the Clippers’ own offensive struggles. Austin Rivers and Tobias Harris were able to get going a little towards the middle of the period, but not enough to create any separation, and their biggest lead of seven quickly shrunk to two by the end of the quarter.

The fourth quarter saw the bench continuing their strong play from the first half, garnering the Clippers a small lead once again. However, the Pacers were able to make hay for much of the quarter on simple pick and rolls, with Oladipo killing them time and again on switches. The Clippers’ offense was able to perk up as the quarter went along, mostly due to Lou Williams, who poured in 15 points on a variety of shots. The Clippers were done in by their bad defense, however, as they were unable to get stops on the Pacers down the stretch. The Clippers kept switching and over-helping, and the Pacers kept making them pay. Eventually, the Clippers ran out of time. This was a bad loss— this game could have been won.

Notes:

  • Defense, Defense, Defense: The Clippers lost this game because of their defense. To be more specific, they lost because of their defense in the 4th quarter. After playing mostly effective defense all game, the Clippers resorted to some of their worst habits in the final quarter—namely, over-switching and leaving shooters wide open. The Pacers, spearheaded by Victor Oladipo in a star performance (30 points and 12 assists) were able to generate open looks quite frequently, and the Clippers seemingly had no answers. The Pacers made some tough shots too, especially Darren Collison, but it was the breakdowns that hurt the most, particularly the play with around a minute left where Ty Wallace abandoned Bojan Bogdanovic for a pointless trap on Collison. Collison made the easy read, Bojan made the three, and the game was effectively over.
  • Gallo Struggles Through Injury: Danilo Gallinari did not have a very good game, scoring seven points on 1-9 shooting (he made five free throws), though he did contribute six rebounds and three blocks. He took a hard tumble to the floor in the first quarter, and teammates rushed over to make sure he was ok, but the damage was done. After the game, Gallo mentioned that he banged his hand on the play, and that he was playing “with constant pain” in the second half. There’s no question that his hand isn’t close to 100%. As he is signed with the Clippers for another two years and $40 million, taking a longterm picture and shutting him down for the season has to be a strong consideration right now.
  • Monstrous Montrezl: The Clippers may have won this game if they’d ridden Montrezl Harrell to the finish line. Yes, he was tiring. And yes, his lack of height allowed a couple offensive rebounds to the Pacers. But he was just so much better than DJ tonight—more active, and a far greater threat on offense. The Pacers had no answers for him, as he poured in 19 points on 9-12 shooting in just 21 minutes. He was dominant in his minutes and should have gotten more of them. DJ had an ok statline (8 points, 12 rebounds), but those numbers belie his level of effectiveness in this one. He was out-hustled too many times, and wasn’t a presence on the offensive end of the court after the 1st quarter. Trez should have closed this one out.
  • Lou Brilliant in 4th: Lou Williams had a very quiet first three quarters. He played well enough, but had only taken five shots, and just wasn’t his usual self. That changed in the 4th quarter: Sweet Lou scored 15 points in the period on 5-8 shooting, and it seemed like he might single-handedly carry the Clippers to a win. Alas, it was for naught. On the flip side of the coin, Lou’s poor defense is one of the reasons the Pacers were able to score so easily in the final quarter.
  • Standings Watch: The Clippers’ loss means they need to win out (and hope teams ahead of them drop several games) if they are to make the playoffs. The Spurs won today, though two of the Thunder, Pelicans, Jazz, and Wolves will lose (they are finishing games against each other right now). If the Clippers win out, they will need at least one of those teams to drop an additional game to have even a chance at the playoffs. All that seems very unlikely right now, as the Clippers’ playoff dreams finally seem to be slipping away for real.