The Clippers fell apart down the stretch of the game again, leading to a 119-117 defeat in Washington. For a full game recap of the Clippers’ loss to the Wizards, read on below.
The first quarter of this game should have all video deleted. Tapes burned, highlights scrapped, summaries omitted. Nobody should have to look at this ever again. The Clippers were comically bad on offense, turning the ball over an insane seven times (and it felt like more), though they shot the ball well enough when they were just giving it to the Wizards. They were also not helped by Kawhi Leonard picking up two quick fouls. The Wiz, meanwhile, limited their turnovers, but were ice cold and sloppy in running their offense, seemingly only able to score out in transition. The arrival of the bench units did not change the overall standard of play, and the Clippers counted themselves very lucky to be down just three at the end of the 1st.
Things immediately turned when Kawhi Leonard returned, as he stepped right on the court and nailed a three. While Lou Williams continued to look dreadful, Kawhi and Luke played excellently, getting to wherever they wanted on the court and calming things down to limit the turnovers. Meanwhile, Terance Mann and Ivica Zubac filled in gaps by playing defense, finishing looks when necessary, and moving the ball. The Clippers took the lead and began to grow it. Their run only became more potent when Pat Beverley checked in, as Bev played fantastic on both sides of the court, hounding the Wizards on one end and attacking their soft defense on the other. The Clippers soon had the lead up to 16, and looked like they could turn the game into a rout. Unfortunately, Ty Lue had to give his good lineup a breather, and when the starters and Lou came back, they gave up a 9-0 run to close the half, bringing the lead down to 7.
Unfortunately, the Wizards’ momentum carried over into the 3rd quarter. Worse, their turnover issues returned in a hurry, with three more giveaways committed in the first three minutes. The Wizards quickly took the lead, and moved to the foul line time and again. The Clippers’ stagnant offense, meanwhile, resulted in only bricked shots and more turnovers. Fortunately, Russell Westbrook missed several free throws and Bradley Beal continued to be cold from the field, which meant the Wizards’ advantage never grew much. Things finally livened up when the bench came in, with all of Lou Williams, Terance Mann, and Luke Kennard cutting into the lane and making passes out to open shooters. With ball movement came scoring, and the Clippers tied the game heading into the final frame.
The 4th quarter started out well for the Clippers – Lou Williams continud his hot stretch with two floaters, and Zu played great on defense. Then, however, the turnovers returned yet again, and the Clippers’ handouts allowed the Wizards to tie the game. For most of the rest of the quarter, Ty turned back to his starters, an odd choice considering how ineffective they’d been all game. Pat Beverley made a couple huge threes to keep the Clippers around, but Kawhi Leonard and Nic Batum were off, and Serge Ibaka was invisible. The Wizards slowly inched their lead forward, while the Clippers continued to brick. To their credit, the Clippers moved the ball extremely well and took mostly open looks – they just missed them. Trailing by 6 with 1:18 to go and Wizards ball, all seemed lost. In a last gasp, a Batum three, three Batum free throws, and a Kawhi three came on consecutive possessions, putting the Clippers down just three with 12 seconds left.
At this point, comedy ensued. Reggie Jackson threw a bad pass that Lou couldn’t handle, leading to a backcourt violation. Except, of course, the refs didn’t call it, and Zu got fouled. More controversy was generated at this point, as the foul by Bertans looked like a Flagrant 1, but the refs stuck with their initial call, and only two free throws were awarded. Zu made both, and the Clippers fouled Hachimura down a single point with seven seconds left. Hachimura made the first, and then missed the second… but Westbrook tapped the rebound to Beal, who somehow evaded all Clippers defenders and dribbled out the clock. And with that, this awful recap summary of the Clippers’ disgusting loss to the Wizards can be ended.
Loss on Ty: While the Clippers’ players were bad in this one, I think this might be the worst coaching loss of the year for Ty Lue. His subbing out Beverley, Leonard, and Zu with a couple minutes left in the 2nd quarter led to a run that changed the entire tenor of the game. Then, in the 4th, rather than sticking with the guys who had played well all game (Luke, Mann, and Zu), he returned to Reggie, Batum, and Serge, who all ranged from bad to awful. Serge over Zu was probably the biggest crime, as the Clippers could not get any stops with Serge in the game, and he repeatedly passed up open shots. As mentioned throughout the recap, the Clippers outplayed the Wizards when their bench was in the game, and it’s a shame that the reserves weren’t rewarded with closing the game out.
Return of the Luke: After a couple weeks out of the rotation, Luke Kennard came back in a big way in this one, submitting his best performance as a Clipper. Luke scored 14 points on 5-8 shooting, hit 4-5 of his five threes, collected 4 rebounds, and dished 4 assists – all in just 21 minutes. He was decisive with the ball in his hands, either shooting, attacking, or passing rather than dribbling aimlessly or holding onto the rock. He even looked a little bit better defensively. In a game where Paul George was ruled out just prior to tip-off, and Marcus Morris was also out, the Clippers desperately needed Luke’s shooting, and he came through in spades. Maybe this will get him back into Lue’s good graces after the All Star Break.
Different Clutch Issues: While the Clippers struggled in crunch time in this one, it was very different from their prior two outings against the Bucks and Celtics. The Clippers ran their regular offense down the stretch of the game, were more than willing to share the ball, and consistently generated open looks. The one constants from the plodding, isolation-heavy crunch offenses of the past couple games is that the Clippers couldn’t hit any shots. However, outside of a couple semi-poor threes, the Clippers were creating very good shots, they just weren’t hitting them. So, while the results were the same, the process was much, much better tonight.
Turnovers Galore: The Clippers finished with 17 turnovers, and that’s after a couple were stricken from the record (not sure why). Seemingly every time they got momentum, they’d give the ball (and momentum) to the Wizards, allowing them to come right back in it. Weirdly, it was some of the Clippers’ most turnover-averse players who had the giveaways in this one, with Kawhi Leonard turning the ball over four times, Pat and Batum thrice apiece, and Lou with another four. The Wizards’ defense is awful, and forced very few of the turnovers – most of them were simply awful passes or poor dribbles. It was an ugly, ugly performance by the Clippers’ offense, which could have scored 130 points easily if they’d had a handful less turnovers.
Well, that’s about it for this game recap of the Clippers’ loss to the Wizards. With three defeats in a row, all dispiriting in different ways, it’s a perfect time for the All Star Break, giving the Clippers a week to regroup. We will have coverage in the interim, but take a much-deserved break from Clippers’ basketball for a bit. Hopefully it’s better in a week!