Perhaps that’s the best way to explain the Clippers’ lethargic performances in back-to-back games now against the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. On Monday night, the Clippers, still smarting from a 114-110 loss to the Warriors, trailed for most of the game, fell behind by 13 points in the third quarter and eventually lost 108-101, falling to 2-2 after a 2-0 start to the season.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Maybe the Clippers’ lackluster performance on Saturday could be chalked up to having a letdown game after opening up against their two rivals. Maybe they could have blamed it on their first back-to-back of the season (even though they were playing at home). Whatever the case may be, the Clippers had a built-in excuse for Saturday’s loss. But they had no one but themselves to blame for the way they played Monday night against Cleveland. They looked completely uninterested in the game after saying for the previous 24 hours they had learned a lesson from the Golden State game and would demonstrate how much they learned against their next opponent in Cleveland. Apparently their lesson didn’t quite sink in.
It was one thing for the Clippers to allow Golden State to score 114 points on Saturday, it was another to allow the Cavaliers to score 108 points 48 hours later. Not only did Kyrie Irving put up 24 points, the Clippers allowed Cleveland’s rookies Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters to score a combined 43 points on 16-of-27 shooting. Zeller was knocked out of the game after getting elbowed by DeAndre Jordan on a rebound attempt, but even that didn't slow down Cleveland as Waiters hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers and finished the game with a game-high 28 points. On the night, five Cavaliers scored in double digits as Cleveland went 40-for-92 from the field, attempting nearly 20 more shots than the Clippers.
As bad the Clippers have played for the first 40 or so minutes of their last two games, falling behind by double-digits in the second half, they have mounted a comeback on both occasions. They have tied the game and gotten the crowd back into it, only to fail in finishing the job. After tying the game late in the fourth quarter against Cleveland, the Clippers allowed Waiters to hit back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Cavaliers a six-point cushion. When the Clippers pulled within three points in the final minute, Irving again hit a 3-pointer to put the game away. The Clippers' defense wasn't just bad, it was bad at the most crucial moments. The Clippers could have overcome a season-high 25 turnovers if they could play defense, but their inability to get key stops late in the game was one of the biggest reasons the Clippers' comeback came up short for the second straight outing. Then again, these aren't the kind of games the Clippers should need to come back from.