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No more gifts: Three takeaways from Clippers-Pistons Boxing Day slugfest

Despite going down by 14 with 3:34 left on the game clock, the Los Angeles Clippers battled back and eventually saw off a spirited Detroit Pistons squad in overtime by 142-131.

Los Angeles Clippers v Detroit Pistons
Jalen Duren has his way in the paint against the Clippers, before the Pistons concede the game in OT.
Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite going down by 14 with 3:34 left on the game clock and seemingly waving the white flag by substituting four of the five players on the floor, the Los Angeles Clippers battled back and eventually saw off a spirited Detroit Pistons squad in overtime by 142-131.

It was a far from textbook display from Ty Lue’s team, in which the head coach himself made some questionable decisions that led to even more questionable moments on the court.

In truth, the home team would have been good value for the win, but perhaps they’ll be thankful in the long term as the franchise that currently boasts the best odds at drafting Victor Wembanyama.

Here are the takeaways from a crazy Boxing Day in Michigan…

Too Small

The lineups that contain more than one of Reggie Jackson, John Wall and Norman Powell on the floor together just aren’t working. On the whole, the three actually shot the ball well on Monday night, but they were also responsible for 10 of 19 turnovers. There may well be a way to work two of them into a lineup together, but the Clippers look at their best when they have length across the floor.

The ultra small lineups without a prototypical big man at the five spot have left the team very susceptible to being overrun by their opponents, as we saw at the end of the first quarter when Jalen Duren grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored six easy points in just three minutes.

This was a game for size, as shown by Zubac’s 41 minutes, making the current lack of a backup big on the main roster more pronounced.

No Mo’ RoCo?

It’s with that the Robert Covington situation becomes even more confusing, too. After a ‘DNP - coach’s decision’ in this game, it is increasingly hard to see how and where he gets his playing time, or even what his route into the rotation is.

If the coaching staff don’t feel they can use RoCo in a meaningful way, surely they’d be better off cashing him in to get a backup center that can better supplement Zubac, ensuring that we don’t run the big man into the ground by needing to play him for 40-plus minutes every night.

Given the length of the lineup that rescued this game, seeing one of their longest players and underrated rim protectors not touch the floor at all was tough, and continuing to keep Covington down just feels cruel at this stage.

Gifting Season Is Over

The Clippers have got to stop giving their opponents encouragement. Too many times this season they have handed momentum to teams that either have enough star quality to capitalize or a young, hungry roster that are always happy to accept an invitation to showcase their skills.

It starts with the turnovers but it also comes down to shot selection and patience at crucial times. Between 7:14 in the fourth and the platoon swap just under four minutes later, the Clippers shot three pullups and two stepbacks, missing every shot. Their settling goes away from what makes this offense so good when at its best, and honestly had me believing that PG didn’t deserve to be brought back into the game as he was with 26 seconds remaining.

Let’s hope for a much more straightforward evening against the Toronto Raptors.