LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – It’s hard to go deep into the postseason without your top players. The Los Angeles Clippers are in that position.
After losing to the Phoenix Suns for the third time in the last four games, the Clippers are staring at a 1-3 deficit to their Western Conference Pacific Division rivals for the right to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
The Clippers have been hindered by the fact that neither Paul George or Kawhi Leonard took the floor in Game 3 or Game 4 for their team due to injuries. This is a rather unfortunate turn of events for the Clippers, a team with high expectations this season to make a deep run into the playoffs.
With George and Leonard not being able to go, it is easy to assume that head coach Tyronn Lue and the Clippers would be just happy to keep things close and interesting. That’s not the way Lue sees it.
“I hoped to see a win. We are not playing to keep it close,” Lue said in a postgame press conference. “I know y’all might think that but we are playing to win. We had opportunities, second quarter, I thought we had eight turnovers, kind of got easy baskets but our margin for error is slim.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball which we did in the second half and a better job on the glass,” Lue added. “Our guys, we’re competing to win. We are not competing to keep it close. You know, they played well down the stretch. I thought CP in that fourth quarter really carried them and made some big shots for them.”
Unless the Clippers turn things around immediately from their two-game hole, beginning in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series, Los Angeles will be on summer vacation sooner rather than later. Judging by the way he has played the last two games, the onus would not fully be on guard Russell Westbrook.
Following his Game 4 contribution of 37 points in 40 minutes of playing time, Westbrook has totaled 67 points over the course of the last two games. In Game 4, whenever the Clippers began looking around for a scoring bailout, Westbrook delivered most of the time, connecting on 17 of the 29 shots he took from the field.
“Finding ways, when I watch film, always,” Westbrook said. “ I’m so hard on myself of figuring out ways to be better, not just being more efficient, taking care of the ball, defending better, not giving up on plays.
“I’m a guy that I really strive myself on doing everything at an elite level. So when I watch tonight, maybe I could have did something better. Give guys more shots; make the game easy for them so they don’t have to work so hard with my abilities, and I find ways to do more as much as I can to try to get us a win.”
Amazingly, Westbrook scored his point total without attempting a single free throw during the game. The Clippers, as a team, only had 10 chances to score from the charity line. They made eight. In comparison, Phoenix, which had 46 trips to the free throw line in Game 3, got to the line 27 times, converting 21 of their shots.
The free throw discrepancies in Game 3 and Game 4 made a difference in the outcomes of both games. Phoenix made 13 more free throws than the Clippers in Game 4. The Clippers lost Game 4 by the score of 112-104.
Kevin Durant, who led Phoenix in scoring with 31 points and also pulled down 11 rebounds for good measure, admirably gave kudos to the Clippers for their fight and determination.
You know this team never going, they going to stick around the whole game,” Durant said. “You know, they never out of a game, how well coached they are, how hard they play, and the penetrators and creators they got on their team, they’re never out the game.
Durant continued, “So I think we did a solid job at standpoint, especially coming out the third, but we was just terrible to start the third and you know we was able to get some momentum back after that time out. So I felt like, you know, it was a back and forth battle. They throw punches, we throw punches, and luckily we came out with the last one.”
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.