At this point, it seems fair to assume that the L.A. Clippers won't have a completely healthy lineup for the rest of the 2019-2020 campaign. It's happened just once this season, and it may not happen again.
Patrick Beverley, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard — the team's three best starters — were all absent from the starting lineup Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks for various reasons. Beverley was sidelined with a sore groin, George missed his seventh consecutive game due to a hamstring strain, and Leonard sat for injury management.
Beverley's injury is a new one — he missed the second half of Tuesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks because of it, though it doesn't seem particularly severe. George is on the verge of returning as well, but there's no set date.
The Clippers were forced to get creative against Atlanta, as Terance Mann, Lou Williams, and Landry Shamet started alongside Moe Harkless and Ivica Zubac to make up for the lost shooting and defense.
Unfortunately, this unit's lack of consistency wasn't the only issue the Clippers would endure in their 102-95 loss to the Hawks.
The Clippers got off to a sluggish start on both ends of the floor, allowing Atlanta (sans Trae Young, who was out with a thigh contusion) to take an 11-4 lead within the first few minutes.
The Clippers were at their best in the minutes that followed.
L.A. managed to tie things up with their starters on the floor, and their lead began to grow as soon as the bench started to filter into the game. Williams gave the Clippers their first lead at 15-12, and Rodney McGruder followed with one of his patented floaters to get the second unit going. But it was Montrezl Harrell who made the difference in the first, scoring 10 points in just four minutes of play.
The defense was stifling, allowing just one point during a seven-minute stretch. In that same amount of time, the Clippers posted 26 points of their own. At the end of the first, the Clippers led 32-16 despite blanking on all of their attempts from three-point range.
Both teams essentially traded buckets for the duration of the second quarter, and the Clippers went into the break with a 60-41 lead.
But despite the deficit, the Hawks refused to go down without a fight, and the Clippers let them right back into the game in the second half.
To put it simply, the Clippers were out-hustled. Atlanta committed 15 turnovers to L.A.'s 14, but managed to take 24 more shots. A big reason for this was rebounding — the Hawks grabbed 63 rebounds (including 23 offensive), while the Clippers recorded 45 (eight offensive). Although the Clippers had a more efficient showing than the Hawks, Atlanta still managed to get more of their looks to fall.
The 3-point and free-throw disparities played a big role as well. L.A. went 4-of-21 from deep compared to Atlanta's much more respectable 11-of-35, and the Clippers shot an abysmal 64.1 percent from the stripe on 39 attempts.
As broadcaster Brian Sieman pointed out, it was just the fourth time that the Clippers have lost a game that they had a 20-point lead in since 2011. Previously, they were 181-3 in such games.
It's tough to brush this one under the rug given Atlanta's record, but the Clippers will need to show some resolve to finish their six-game road trip on a positive note. L.A.'s next three matchups come against the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers.