It’s not the first time that Ty Lue’s team has looked like their own worst enemies when flying high within games this season; after all, this is a team with the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA (108.9) who falls to 17th in second quarter defensive rating (114.9).
However, while the Clippers’ slide began at the end of the second frame, it was wrapped in the third, and then signed, sealed and delivered in the fourth.
Here are the big takeaways…
The Clippers shot the lights out in the first half, making 41% of their 41 field-goal attempts, including shooting 52.6% on their 19 from deep. They were led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the first quarter, as the former shot 80% from the field and the latter shot 50/50/100. This was supplemented by a big second period from Norman Powell off the bench, who poured in 12 points on roughly 84% and 67% from inside to out.
But it wasn’t just the offensive side of the ball where the 213 were excelling, as they held James Harden to just 2 points in the first frame and Joel Embiid to just 8 in the second, keeping both off the free-throw line in the process.
Then, with a head full of steam, Kawhi chose to shoot a left-handed floater with 8 seconds left of the first half and that’s where things started to go bad…
Harden and Embiid went from a combined 3 free-throw attempts in the first half to 10 in the second, while defensive breakdowns meant that both were able to fight off the double teams and bring their teammates into play more, with Shake Milton and Georges Niang both scoring 11 points each after half time.
Breakdown: The two minutes that effectively decided Clippers-76ers tonight in Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/3Hjl8T02Hd— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) December 24, 2022
The Clippers' second-half rotations were strange too, with Powell and Luke Kennard — who were both +17 in just over 12 first-half minutes — seeing their minutes decrease in favor of guys like Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. who were the only negative +/- performers from the first 24 minutes of the game.
Morris at least began to find his shot in the second half, the same can’t be said for his teammates…
Batum was the only other Clipper to hit a three after the turn, as the team went 4-19 on their attempts from deep. Their ability to get to the line and hit their free throws kept them within striking distance until late in the game, but some frankly braindead offensive possessions meant they weren’t able to get back ahead and stay there.
The manner with which the team went from looking on top of their game to allowing their opponents to topple them was a worry in this one, but hopefully this game will just be the biggest learning lesson so far for this roster since they got back to full health.