The Clippers, as they have so many times in recent weeks, got off to a poor start. Despite good ball movement and offensive execution, their shots weren’t falling. On the other end, despite solid enough effort, they couldn’t prevent the Nuggets (especially Will Barton) from getting into the paint with ease. The Nuggets built up a 10 point lead, and every time the Clippers tried coming back, they missed a couple shots, or allowed easy layups for the Nuggets. Three things kept the Clippers in the game in the first half: dominance on the offensive glass by DeAndre Jordan (he had six of them), free throws (shooting 29, though only making 19), and a quick eight point spurt by Austin in the late 2nd quarter. Despite their struggles shooting the ball (40% from the field, 33% from three, and 65% from free throw), they only trailed by eight at halftime.
The start of the third quarter was much the same. The Clippers were able to score on most of their possessions, but were seldomly able to stop the Nuggets. As the quarter went along, the Nuggets’ barrage continued, while the Clippers’ offense slowed. This enabled the Nuggets to open up a 19 point lead. All was not lost, as Lou Williams got hot, pouring in bucket after bucket, totaling 13 points in the quarter. The Clippers thus were down by a mere 12 points going into the final period.
Unfortunately, the 4th quarter played out virtually identical to those before it. The Clippers put forth effort on defense, but their horrible communication and poor help led to breakdowns on almost every defensive possession. The Nuggets continued to get open looks from all over the court, and they weren’t missing. The Clippers’ pushes got more and more desperate as they grew fatigued, and it was clear halfway through the period that a run wasn’t in the cards. Doc put the bench in with the Clippers down 19 with four minutes to go, an admission of defeat. The key Clippers trudged to the bench, faces long, and the season, for all intents and purposes, ended.
- Porous Defense: The Clippers have been a very bad defensive team for months now. They don’t have much top-end defensive talent, and all their injuries have completely disrupted any attempts at creating a cohesive scheme with reliable communication. That was in full display today, as, with the playoffs on the line, the Clippers proved completely incapable of stopping the Nuggets for more than one possession in a row. The Nuggets got switches in their favor every trip down the court, and absolutely torched each and every Clippers’ player on the perimeter. In a season chock to the brim with bad defensive performances, this was a low point. The Clippers were just out of sorts, and the Nuggets had no issues in running any of their sets. It was a bad way to end the season.
- Tobias Struggles: Tobias Harris has been so consistently good with the Clippers that any kind of off-night is legitimately surprising. Well, he finally came down to earth in this one, shooting just 6-19 from the field, and providing little resistance on defense. Harris was getting clean looks—they just weren’t falling. It summed up the Clippers’ entire game, really.
- Lou Williams Catches Fire in 3rd: After starting off the game 0-7 from the floor, Lou worked his magic in the third quarter, keeping the Clippers in it when they had nothing else going. He drained a couple threes, had a sweet and-one, and floated in a couple of his trademark runners. Even playing on a sprained ankle, Lou Williams was the most effective Clipper offensively, and it wasn’t close.
- Doc Proud: If you didn’t watch Doc’s postgame press conference, you really should. Doc opened up with a short few minute speech talking about how proud he was of the team, and of the fight and toughness they showed this season. He was clearly emotional, giving the players all the responsibility for the season they’ve had. Doc had a lot of fun this season coaching this team and did a phenomenal job. Ultimately, fatigue and injuries caught up to them, and they couldn’t make the playoffs, but Doc emphasized how that shouldn’t affect how we think of this season in the future.
- DJ’s Last Game with Clippers?: In that same press conference, Doc revealed that DeAndre Jordan has been playing on an injured ankle for almost a month. Befitting his ironman reputation, DJ wanted to tough it out and play for his teammates, especially with so many other players injured. Doc said that DJ playing in the Clippers’ last two games would be his decision—DJ will play if he wants to/feels up to it. Knowing DJ, he almost certainly will play. While his defense tonight wasn’t fantastic, he kept the Clippers in the game in the first half with his offensive rebounding, and clearly gave it all he could. Let’s hope this wasn’t DJ’s last game as a Clipper, as it would be a rough ending to a fantastic career with the team.