After falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, the LA Clippers are now 1-3 on the young season.
This game started about as poorly as possible for the Clippers from an offensive standpoint. The team scored just 14 points total in the first quarter, including zero from Paul George. Fortunately for them, the Cavaliers were not much better, which allowed the game to stay close. In the second quarter, the Clippers started to wake up.
After failing to score in the opening frame, Paul George started to come to life in the second quarter with 8 points on 4/7 from the field. He did not get much help early on, but both Nicolas Batum and Luke Kennard provided some assistance with four threes between them entering half-time. After trailing by double-digits early, the Clippers entered the break only down seven. This was despite shooting 36.6% from the field, 18.2% from deep, and turning the ball over 11 times. All things considered, the Clippers had to feel pretty good about where the game stood at the half.
Even without Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have several offensive weapons. Because of this, it seemed unlikely that their offense would remain as poor in the second-half as it was to start; however, that was exactly what happened. After showing some signs of life in the second period, Paul George was unable to regain his groove in the second half. He finished with just 12 points on 6/20 from the field and 0/8 from three.
Reggie Jackson said after the loss to Memphis that the team should not need 40 from Paul George in order to have a chance to win, suggesting himself and others needed to provide more help. Between Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum, some help was provided; however it wasn't enough. Reggie and Batum each finished with 16 points, and in addition to George, Ivica Zubac was the only other Clipper in double-figures with 11.
Cleveland's balanced attack in the second half was too much for the Clippers to overcome, even with the solid showings from Jackson and Batum. In 37 minutes of play, Collin Sexton poured in 26 points on 12/20 shooting, and his co-star Darius Garland added 16 points and 6 assists. The Cavs also got some solid bench production from veteran guard Ricky Rubio, who added 15 points in 27 minutes.
The Clippers seemingly struggling with Cleveland's length all night, and when combined with their outside shot not falling, it made for a historically bad offensive showing. The Clippers scored just 79 points, which is the fewest they have scored in a game since last year's 50-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Head coach Ty Lue was understandably frustrated with the loss, and said postgame that "You can take losing a game if you play the right way, but I don't think we did." He repeatedly mentioned the team's inability to get a quality rhythm going offensively, and it was a problem that persisted all night.
While some may see it as an insignificant loss in October to an Eastern Conference opponent, the Clippers need these games in order to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff picture. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined for an extended period of time, every win will be vital for the Clippers' chances of securing a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference.
The Clippers are now 1-3 on the young season, and will look to get back in the win column on Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers.