LOS ANGELES, CA-There are a couple of ways of looking at the Los Angeles Clippers’ 104-101 defeat to the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon. The Clippers could probably find some kind of solace in their home defeat to Miami for the way they overcame a 25-point third quarter deficit to take a one-point lead with 17 ticks left on the clock in the fourth quarter.
For 12 minutes, the Clippers dug in defensively, holding the Heat to just 15 points in the fourth quarter. After a slumbering three quarters, the Clippers offense, led by the hot-shooting of reserve Lou Williams, woke up long enough to score 35 points in the final period, good enough to have the Staples Center crowd rocking.
It seemed the Clippers were doing everything right that that they did not do through the first three quarters of play. They can also point to the fact that their bench, which has been a large handicap the past couple of seasons, were the ones to jumpstart and ignited the improbable comeback for Los Angeles.
The Clippers also have to look at the fact that they didn’t find a way to finish the job. Looking at film to figure how they found themselves down 25 points to the Heat in the first place might help in that area. Completing the epic comeback would have been a dose of good karma for the Clippers as they head off into travel space to embark on a long road trip.
The Clippers play their next eight of nine games on the road. That might be a good thing after dropping their last two home games. With 17 seconds left in the game guard Austin Rivers stood at the free throw line with the opportunity to extend the Clippers’ one-point advantage into a possible three-point lead.
That didn’t happen as Rivers missed both free throws. Miami tacked on four straight free throws and that was your ballgame. It was a bitter pill for the Clippers to swallow after it appeared they had secured an improbable win.
“It’s tough when you lose a game like that and you play the way that we played throughout the first three quarters,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “The second unit saved us; they were spectacular. We had all five second-unit guys on the floor when we were down 20, maybe even more. They’re the team that got us back into the game, they just played hard.”
Doc Rivers cited the backup unit’s intensity that got things going for the Clippers.
“They did it with their energy,” Doc Rivers said. “[Lou Williams] had a stretch for us that was great, but we gave up so many shots all game. Right now, defensively, we aren’t giving ourselves a chance to win games, so we have to fix that.”
For the first three quarters, the Clippers defense was largely missing in action as the Heat built a lead of 25 points late in the third quarter. When the Clippers hit the fourth quarter, they were staring at a 23-point hole to dig out of. The first and third quarters turned out to be headaches for the Clippers on the defensive front.
The Heat came out scorching in the first period, scoring 34 points. The Clippers could only muster 20 points, already securing a double-digit hole. The third quarter was just as brutal offensively for the Clippers as the Heat held Los Angeles to just 17 points in the quarter. The Clippers made just 4 of their 20 shots they attempted from the field, a shooting percentage of 20.
In contrast, the Clippers shot 56 percent from the field in the final period. The Clippers’ extended road trip, which includes stops in Oklahoma City, Houston, Cleveland and New York, may be a good escape for Rivers’ team.
“The road sometimes can be very mean, and sometimes it can be great,” said Doc Rivers. “I have always found early road trips to be not bad for your team because you’re forced to spend time with each other on the road and you just try to build, but we don’t have easy games. We are a team right now where every game is not an easy game, so we have to be ready to play.”