The LA Clippers battled back but couldn’t cross the finish line in 134-124 overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets.|
When the LA Clippers were storming back from an 18 point deficit against the Denver Nuggets, you could almost hear Reggie Jackson telling his new Nuggets teammates, ‘they have us right where they want us’, echoing his famous words when the Clippers found themselves down 35 at the half against the Washington Wizards last season. After all, Jackson has been a part of the numerous comebacks the Clippers have had over the years, including last season when down 25 against these same Nuggets.
That wasn’t going to be the case on Sunday, as the Clippers were unable to seal the deal. Maybe it was the mile-high altitude that plagued the Clippers in the first quarter, but they got off to a slow start, trailing 20-4 early. They did manage to close the gap in the second quarter to find themselves only down 66-58.
The Nuggets would run the score back up to double-digits in the third quarter, but the Clippers were able to battle back. Similarly to Friday against the Sacramento Kings, the Clippers late-game errors kept them from closing out the game despite multiple chances.
One of the most egregious set of errors came late in the fourth quarter when the Clippers wasted a monster defensive effort from Kawhi Leonard on Jamal Murray. Leonard’s defense forced Murray to take a long three-point that missed.
The first error was not boxing out and allowing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to grab the offensive rebound. The second was a defensive miscommunication leaving Michael Porter Jr., one of the better three-point shooters in the league, wide-open for a shot that put the Nuggets up. The Clippers managed to tie the game up the following possession after Paul George’s two free-throws, but a simple box out and simple closeout and the Clippers are on the opposite end of the score.
Overtime was just a nightmare for the Clippers. Whether it was tired legs or something else, they allowed the Nuggets to score the first nine points of the extra possession, with two of those possessions resulting in wide-open three point shots.
On one hand, you can point to the last two games and say the Clippers have hung tough against two of the best teams in the Western Conference. But time is running out to develop some consistency and cohesiveness. There are only 19 games left in the season in a tightening Western Conference playoff picture. Sunday’s game was a perfect opportunity to move back into fourth place with the Suns losing to the Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Clippers next game is against the Minnesota Timberwolves who are also fighting for a playoff spot. It’s not going to get any easier. The Clippers need to get things together and get them together fast.
-Russell Westbrook had another good game. He played within the flow of the offense and looked to push the pace and find open teammates. Lue opted not to go with Westbrook down the stretch of the fourth quarter and into overtime and quite honestly he maybe should have closed with him in place of Marcus Morris. Lue is probably just experimenting with different closing rotations but again, time is of the essence.
-Mason Plumlee has been a godsend and it’s probably frustrating for Clippers fans thinking how much better the team would have been had they traded for a backup center much earlier. Plumlee’s energy on both ends of the court was a huge reason for the Clippers briefly taking control of the game.
-Terance Mann needs to play more. Good things happen when Mann is on the floor. It was worth a shot to go with Mann instead of Eric Gordon down the stretch. With Mann no longer in the starting lineup, he should be the sixth man regardless of Norman Powell’s play.