The LA Clippers dropped their final game as a co-tenant to the LA Lakers, 116-112.


In the NBA, there’s a bit of an unwritten rule coined by former NBA coach Phil Jackson called the ’40 before 20′ rule. It basically says that in order to be a legitimate NBA title contender, a team has to reach 40 wins before 20 losses.

In the past 30 years, only three teams have gone on to win an NBA championship without reaching that mark. The Clippers had a chance to get to that mark, but no longer after losing the season series to the Lakers.

Even being short-handed, the Clippers came out of the gates ready to play. The first quarter was a see-saw game with a few lead changes and the Clippers managed to grab a one-point lead, 30-29, after a tip in at the buzzer by Kawhi Leonard.

In the second quarter, it was the Terance Mann show. Building off his first quarter dunk over Anthony Davis, Mann was everywhere on the court, active around the rim, making hustle plays, and disrupting the Lakers offense.

The Clippers built up a 66-52 lead at the half, limiting their turnovers while forcing them on the other end. Neither team was able to hit shots from the three-point line but the major difference in the game was the Clippers activity and just generally being much quicker and locked-in on the court.

In the third quarter, the Clippers three-point looks began to fall. While the Lakers struck first in the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Clippers had a response. With a 96-77 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the game looked in hand.

The fourth quarter was when everything fell apart. A strange lineup to start the final period that included Russell Westbrook, PJ Tucker and Mason Plumlee allowed the LeBron James and the Lakers to get on a roll and they never cooled off. By the time the starters came back in, the momentum had shifted and the game was lost.

After the game, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue put the blame squarely on himself.

“Offensively we weren’t very organized, we didn’t get organized, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do and so I take full responsibility for that,” Lue said. “You’re the leader of the team and you’re up 21 points, you can’t lose a game like that. . .to lose a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, that’s not like us. So we’ve got to be better in that regard. I don’t think that’s ever happened in my career so long as I’ve been coaching.”

Even with the meltdown in the fourth quarter, the Clippers still miraculously had a chance to either win the game or get to overtime. After a few quick buckets by Leonard and a few quick stops, the Clippers had the ball with 9.3 seconds remaining and trailing, 114-112.

The Clippers put the ball in Leonard’s hands and his fadeaway jumper to tie the game came up short. The Lakers outscored the Clippers, 39-16 in the fourth quarter with James himself outscoring them, 19-16.

Following the game, Leonard highlighted the Clippers poor transition defense off turnovers as a major catalyst, not just in the Lakers loss, but during losses throughout the month of February.

“I think it’s transition. . .we’ve got to do that. We’ve got to get back, we’ve got to talk, we got to communicate. We’ve got to come in the game wanting to stop the other team,” Leonard said. “When you’re throwing them the ball and they’re getting easy layups, it’s hard. We got to definitely focus in on the offensive end there, but pretty much everybody is telling everybody to get back for the most part.”

David Yapkowitz

David Yapkowitz

David is in his sixth season as credentialed media at Los Angeles Clippers games and second season covering the team for 213 Hoops. He also covers the game at the college and high school levels. When his professional basketball dreams did not materialize, he turned to the next best thing, writing about it.

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