Clippers cut it close, but lost to Nets – Orange County Register | #schoolshooting


LOS ANGELES — Live and learn, lose and learn.

The Clippers insisted they’ll make lemonade from their second loss this season to Brooklyn, that they’ll be better for lessons gleaned from another loss to Steve Nash’s star-studded squad, which, like them, is in serious pursuit of its first NBA title.

As was the case earlier this month, the Nets got the better in a battle with the Clippers, who on Sunday lost at Staples Center, 112-108, falling short after they rallied from a 15-point deficit with fewer than nine minutes left to tie the game 108-108 with 28 seconds to go.

In the time remaining after that, a putback by former Clipper DeAndre Jordan and a pair of free throws from L.A. native James Harden tipped the game in Brooklyn’s favor for good. The Nets also beat L.A. 124-120 in a closely contested game on Feb. 2 in Brooklyn.

In the loss, the Clippers (22-10) got a big opening act from Kawhi Leonard (who scored 14 of his 29 points in the first quarter). And then they enjoyed an explosive grand finale from Paul George (who scored 12 of his 34 in an abbreviated appearance in the final frame).

But with only 45 points from the rest of the roster, it wasn’t enough against Brooklyn, whose own star power shone brightly, even without Kevin Durant (sidelined with a left hamstring strain).

Harden finished with a stout stat line of 37 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two steals and the purple-shoed Kyrie Irving danced his way to 28 points and added six assists as the Nets won their sixth consecutive game, finished their road trip 5-0 (the longest undefeated trip in team history) and improved to 20-12.

As Brooklyn’s go-to talents did their requisite damage, Bruce Brown gave the Clippers all sorts of problems, scoring 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting while adding eight rebounds, four steals and two assists.

Lue offered a proverbial tip of the hat to the Nets’ supporting cast member: “He plays his role well, he plays it to a T. He guards the best players every night, he rolls when he’s supposed to roll he cuts when he’s supposed to cut and I thought his energy … Hats off to him.”

Said George: “Just got to watch dude that can’t shoot cut all game … we got to just find where he’s at. I mean, he won’t be a problem. It’s just that we got to do a better job of the energy. He brings energy for them. We got to do a better job of matching the energy.”

Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris also had 13 more points in the victory, as did Jordan — who was 6 of 7 from the field, a big part of the Nets’ dominance in the paint, where they outpaced the Clippers, 60-38.

In his return face his former team at Staples Center, Landry Shamet got a “welcome back” from public address announcer Eric Smith and went 1 for 7 and finished with three points.

The Clippers trailed 96-81 — that 15-point gap was the game’s largest — with 8:52 to play before George and Ivica Zubac (13 points) combined to score 20 consecutive points to cut it to 103-99.

George shot 12 for 19 for the game, and had six rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and six turnovers in 33 minutes.

Playing just his second game back after missing seven with a toe injury, George was on a minutes limit that and ultimately was pulled from the game with 2:50 to play, leaving him able only to applaud his teammates’ resolve from the bench.

“I thought the game kind of got out of hand and we had to bring him back to get the game close,” Lue said. “(He) played good to get us back in it and then it’s a tough decision, but the biggest thing is that he’s healthy.”

That might be so, but still, George said, “I wanted to keep going.”

For a stretch, the Clippers gave him something to cheer for: A 3-pointer from Lou Williams (who struggled from the field, going 2 for 11 for just five points), plus a bucket and four free throws from Leonard tied the game 108-108.

But then Jordan (who also tallied 11 rebounds and four blocks) tipped in an Irving miss and Leonard was called for an offensive foul that returned possession back to Brooklyn. Patrick Beverley (five points, four rebounds, four assists and four turnovers) fouled Harden to stop the clock, and Harden stuck a fork in the proceedings.

“When we’re playing really good teams, they seem to try to exploit your weaknesses,” Lue said pregame, meaning it as a good thing, an opportunity for self discovery. “As a coach, it always gives you information on what you need to work on and get better at.”

The Clippers will work on defending back screens, they’ll work on resisting the urge to settle when presented with unorthodox switching from a defense and they’ll most certainly work on taking better care of the ball.

“They’re not even a great turnover team, they don’t even force a lot of turnovers and for us to have 17 turnovers they score 27 points, that was the game right there,” Lue said. “Our offense let us down on tonight.”



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