The Clippers’ 2024 season, which had moments of such promise, ended tonight in the first round to the Dallas Mavericks, who outshot, outhustled, and outplayed the Clippers, 114-101.

Game Summary

The Clippers (shockingly starting PJ Tucker in place of Amir Coffey) started off the game looking like they did most of Game 5 – with no energy on either end or any discernible plan on offense. At the 7:32 mark, the Mavs led 13-6, and were able to grow their lead slightly in the next couple minutes, but not much because their own offense was cold. Still, it was 20-10, and the Mavs looked like they were going to pull away. Then, miraculously, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run spurred largely by PG and Hardn to tie the game. Things were still close late when the bench came in, with the score 25-24 at 2:02. From there, things fell apart, with a Russ-Amir-Mason unit looking terrible on both end, and a 9-2 Mavs run putting them up 34-26 after one.

Plumlee was thankfully exiled from the game for Zu, but Russ bricked an open corner three, and was pulled for Mann at the 11:30 mark. PG came back for Amir less than 30 seconds later. This unit, the starters with Norm instead of PJ Tucker, would play the entire rest of the quarter. And, after a couple rocky minutes, the Clippers really settled in. This was especially true on defense, where the Clippers rotated, did not foul, and forced Dallas turnovers. Their offense remained relatively ugly, but some Norm buckets helped them chip away at it. The Mavs’ drought continued, and the Clippers got closer and closer, until, finally, it was all tied at 48 at the 1:35 mark, with a 15-2 Clippers run. At half, the game was locked up at 52 apiece.

Somehow, someway, PJ started the 3rd quarter again, and the Clippers looked terrible again. A swift 8-0 run by the Mavs forced a Ty timeout in less than two minutes. The Clippers’ offense finally started getting going, namely Harden and PG, but the Mavs were rolling now, and the lead continued to grow. At 7:10, Zu, who was looking tired, was pulled for Norm, with the Clippers going small. That didn’t do the trick, and the Mavs led by 14 just after the halfway point. Ty began to rotate guys in and out more quickly, staying small for a bit with Russ for PJ, then going back to Zu, and then bringing back Zu. Nothing really helped, with Kyrie going crazy and the Clippers offense not clicking. Going into the third quarter, the Mavs led 87-72.

The Clippers rolled out a unit of Harden, Norm, Amir, PG, and Zu, but they looked defeated. Kyrie immediately hit a three, and while Norm countered, the Mavs’ lead hit 20 at the 9:24 mark. Ty, in desperation, went to small ball, with Mann in for Zu. A minute later, PJ checked in for Amir. Predictably, the small ball units were not all that effective on offense and very bad on defense, and the lead hit 106-82 with 5:40 to go. Zu checked back for PG, of all people, and the Clippers went on a hilarious 13-2 run in 2:30 to force a Mavs timeout, 108-95 with 3:10 to go. George returned for Tucker, and the Clippers tried “hack-a-Lively” to no avail. The Mavs made their free throws, the Clippers missed threes, and the Clippers season ended 114-101.

Notes

Better Fight, Not Enough: This was a much, much better showing for the Clippers than Game 5, when they suffered their worst playoff loss in franchise, but was not nearly enough. Some of the deficiencies are just due to the Clippers playing without Kawhi, and having a very poor bench. But they gave up a ton of offensive rebounds, continued to let the Mavs’ physicality bother them on defense, and just looked too low on energy to start the game and 3rd quarter. I want to shout out Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann, Norm Powell, and James Harden (in that descending order) for playing hard and really trying to win this game. The rest of the group, well..

Ty Lue, You Ok?: The Lakers fired Darvin Ham today, and Ty Lue was immediately linked as a candidate to replace him. Woj wrote an article that the Clippers are trying to sign Ty to an extension, and bring back PG and Harden. I think Ty, at the end of the day, is a good coach. But this was a bad series from him, by far the worst we’ve seen in a Clippers suit. Mason Plumlee, was, somehow, still his choice of backup center in the first half. He was a -7 in less than three minutes. PJ Tucker, who was out of the rotation for much of the year and is a non-threat on offense, started and played 20 minutes. I was advocating for a few minutes for PJ here or there, but not this. Somehow, Daniel Theis never got a minute of rotation play this series despite Plumlee’s play and the helplessness of the Clippers’ small-ball units. Nor did Bones Hyland, even in the midst of another terrible Russ (2-7 in 9 minutes) performance. Ty Lue is normally the tinkerer, but he really didn’t make almost any rotation adjustments in this series, and it was baffling. The Clippers’ offense just also never seemed to have any direction or strategy, from start to finish.

Missed Threes: I’m not excusing the loss on missing shots, but the Clippers were 8-31 from three, and 2-3 of those were by Tucker. They missed a ton of open looks all game from good shooters (PG was 2-10, Harden 0-6, and Norm 2-6) and sometimes those are the breaks. But the Clippers’ failure to create any kind of consistent offense can’t just be passed on an off shooting night.

Is This It for PG: This may have been Paul George’s last game in a Clippers jersey. The founding member of “213” had a better showing than Game 5, getting up 18 shots and scoring 18 points. But George was still, far, far too passive, settled for way too many threes instead of attacking, and was just “ok” on defense. There really just seemed to be a lack of urgency or fight for George in this elimination game, an all too common theme this series. PG will finish the six game series with one great game (4), one good game (1), one acceptable game (2), one bad game (6), and two all-time stinkers (3 and 5). That’s, uh, bad from a guy who wants a max contract this summer. Maybe PG is back, maybe he isn’t. But if it was his last game, what a sad note to end on.

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