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Clippings: Fatigue finally caught up with the Clippers

That was essentially the story of the Clippers’ loss to the Bulls.

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

The Clippers have had a charmed existence for the past two weeks. Ever since Paul George spearheaded a 17-3 run in under three minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against the Thunder, everything’s been turning up Clippers.

That OKC win was followed by a game in Minnesota when the Clippers shot 58 percent on threes and 62 percent on twos. In their encore against the Wolves, they turned a 20-point deficit into a 20-point win despite dealing with George’s foul trouble. The Clippers were once again behind by double digits and trailed by nine in the fourth before using a 22-0 run to jet past the Hornets. Miami had the Clippers by the ropes as well, leading by as many as 17 before mounting a furious rally late.

Despite a number of adverse situations, the Clippers consistently found a way to pull through. The undercurrent of George’s performance carried the team while every individual player managed to have his day.

But the strain of playing every other day and battling back time and time again from early deficits proved predictably unsustainable. On the team’s first back-to-back outing of the season, fatigue set in almost immediately. The Clippers couldn’t match the Bulls’ energy, committing 10 turnovers in the opening frame and never quite finding their rhythm.

“Our guys got tired, I thought they were fatigued,” Ty Lue said postgame. “I messed up, I played them too many minutes. So you get fatigued, you don’t attack the rim, don’t attack the basket and get downhill, took some tough shots, like you said threes, didn’t get inside the paint.”

As Lue noted, that fatigue manifested itself in a myriad of ways. Among them was poor decision-making, as the Clippers turned the ball over 20 times. They also were unable to knock down jumpers, making 32 percent of their 3-pointers despite averaging a 36 percent clip this season. The Clippers were often too tired to take the good shots that were open and overpassed. They earned 21 free throws, but those were almost entirely from George and Eric Bledsoe; everyone else settled for bad jumpers.

Lue also admitted to mismanaging the team’s minutes. With only eight players on the main roster available since Justise Winslow was a late scratch, the usual rotation got even further stretched.

“You don’t want to have them play those kind of minutes in a back to back like that,” Lue said. “It’s like wasted minutes when you play that many minutes and you don’t win. It’s tough, so, we gotta — I gotta — make sure I do a better job with that next time.”

The schedule doesn’t ease up just yet. The Clippers have their third game in four nights against the Spurs Tuesday and then a road back-to-back to close out the week. The good news is that this team has proven resilient so far, and this is just one more challenge to manage.

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