The LA Clippers lost a tight contest on Sunday afternoon; trading punches with the Milwaukee Bucks before collapsing down the stretch en route to a 105-100 defeat.
With 11 lead changes and nine total ties, this was easily one of the more entertaining games LA had played all season. And while it looked like that pattern would hold through the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the opposite turned out to be true.
After Kawhi Leonard sank a jumper that gave the Clippers a 100-96 lead with 4:01 to play, LA was held scoreless for the remainder of the game. The team got plenty of shots up in that span — nine, to be exact — but failed to convert a single one of them. Credit is due to the Bucks for locking-in defensively and forcing the Clippers to settle for more difficult looks, but LA isn't without blame, either.
For the most part, the Clippers lacked movement in those last four minutes. As a result, they got into their sets late in the shot clock and weren't always able to pass into a better look than the ones that were available to them.
According to Leonard, there's one way to fix the issue: Playing with pace.
"I thought we came down too slow," Leonard said. "As a team, I don't feel like we're there yet. We're looking to sideline a lot for plays. I feel like our pace is pretty much slowed down. Gotta give 'em credit though, they locked-in and tuned-in on us, and they got stops when they needed it. But just for us to get better, I feel like we gotta have a better stride, opening the floor up, just getting down and into a play. Felt like we got stagnant a little bit."
Leonard unknowingly echoed Paul George with his statement, who offered up a similar take on how the Clippers closed the game.
"I thought, more than anything, we should've just played with a little bit more pace," George said. "Down in the last four minutes, we kind of walked the ball up and played a slower offense... That's on us. We should've just pushed the pace, played a little faster down the stretch."
LA's logged a pace of 96.5 in the loss — not far off their season average of 97.6 — but the game did slow down dramatically in those final minutes. The Clippers also scored just two points in transition on Sunday, and while transition points are only one measure of how quickly a team plays the game, it's a prime example of how LA handled its time on the court against Milwaukee.
Fortunately, with another half of the regular season to go, the Clippers have plenty of time to make some changes on that end of the floor.
The LA Clippers return to action on Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics.