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Clippings: Agua Caliente has been eliminated from G League playoff contention

The bubble has not been kind to the Clippers.

Agua Caliente Clippers v Long Island Nets Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The Agua Caliente Clippers began their season with some perfectly respectable performances. They split their first six games, alternating wins and losses despite being without their best player Amir Coffey for much of that stretch once he was called up to the NBA team.

It seemed like the Clippers were finally set for back-to-back wins when they took an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of their seventh game against the Lakeland Magic. Instead, the Magic rallied and the Clippers needed a 3-pointer with five seconds left just to force overtime, though they were outscored 4-2 in the two-minute extra session.

At the time, the Clippers were just in their pattern of one down and one up. Looking back, the Lakeland loss was the beginning of the end. The Santa Cruz Warriors crushed the Clippers in the next game, not even needing Nico Mannion and Jeremy Lin to win by 39. The following day, the Clippers had a disastrous third quarter to blow a lead against the Long Island Nets despite a nice all-around game from Ty Wallace. That put the team’s record at 3-6, still at a point where the Clippers could turn their season around.

Then came Friday’s contest against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Agua Caliente was up nine points with 1:21 to play. They then gave up two 3-pointers and a lob to the Mad Ants, and James Palmer inexplicably missed a dunk in the final minute. But the Clippers still had the lead and possession with less than 24 seconds to play. All they had to do was inbound the ball cleanly.

They did whatever this was.

The Clippers were once again competitive in a loss to the Erie Bayhawks Saturday, unable to crack a one-point deficit in the final minute, and then they were routed by the Memphis Hustle Monday. That loss officially eliminated Agua Caliente from playoff contention with three games to play this season.

In their four-year history in the G League, the Clippers have yet to make the playoffs, though they had a chance last year before the pandemic prematurely ended the season.

Despite the current six-game losing streak, there have been bright spots for the Clippers. Coffey got some run in before helping out the big club. Wallace’s feel stands out, and he’s been the leading scorer even if his jumper hasn’t improved; the St. Mary’s duo of Malik Fitts and Jordan Ford have also been dynamic offensively.

Agua Caliente could have used a better big in the middle; Jalen Smith from the Suns ended up being something of a dud, and Emanuel Terry was a bit undersized for the role. It’s too bad Mfiondu Kabengele wasn’t in Orlando with the Clippers. It’s also unfortunate that Daniel Oturu and Jay Scrubb (the team’s 2020 second-round picks) were both unable to play due to injury.

The Clippers can still be a spoiler with playoff seeding up for grabs over the next week. That goal starts against G League Ignite on Wednesday.

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