After an offseason filled with plenty of promise, the Los Angeles Clippers fell apart in the fourth quarter of the season opener to the far less-talented Los Angeles Lakers. The Doc Rivers-led, defensive-minded Clippers gave up 41 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 116-103 loss.
The Clippers led 79-75 entering the fourth quarter when Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni decided to experiment with an all-bench lineup of Jordan Farmar, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson. After a 10-4 start to the quarter, Rivers brought back his Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, hoping to appease the momentum the Lakers bench was building.
It was already too late. The Lakers bench would increase their lead to 17 points over the next seven minutes of gameplay. The Lakers’ reserves finished the night with 76 points, the most in franchise history since 1985.
”Mike [D’Antoni] did a great thing: He didn’t bring his starters back in,” Rivers said after the game via NBA.com’s live streaming. ”There was a point where I was thinking: ‘Please bring them back in.”’
The Clippers will have to get used to this type of energy from their opposition on a gamely basis from now on. As a result of the team’s offseason moves to solidify itself as a championship contender, there has been a certain sense of entitlement over the past couple of months.
“I thought teams played us harder the first year in Boston than after we won it because the first year people took it personal that we [the Clippers] were anointed,” Rivers added. “I think pros take that more personal. Once you win it, they still want to beat the champs […] but they hate anointed champs.”
On an average of 101 possessions, which is on the higher end of the spectrum, the offensive efficiencies for both teams last night were: Lakers 114.9, Clippers 102.0. It’s fair to suggest that the Clippers just got mixed up in trying to play at an up-tempo pace, especially against the bench in the fourth quarter.
The Clippers finished with more fast-break points, more points in the paint, shot a higher percentage from the field, and even took care of the ball more efficiently. They faced a fourth-quarter unit that just had more energy and resilience in them than the Clippers had expected – it was a classic case of underestimating someone and facing said consequences.
Moving forward, Doc Rivers has to focus the team’s efforts on securing defensive rebounds. The Lakers relished a 52-40 advantage on the glass and pulled down 18 offensive rebounds, led by Jordan Hill’s seven.
Last night’s loss was just one game. There are 81 more games and the Clippers will still finish in the top half of the Western Conference. It’s just a matter of tweaking a few things, such as the rebounding and the energy.
“Every time you go out you got to be hungry,” said Paul. “I don’t care who you’re playing against, you have to play like that. We’ll find it.”
Paul finished the night with 15 points, 11 assists, and 5 steals. Blake Griffin had 19 points and 7 rebounds, while DeAndre Jordan added 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The bench was outscored 76-34.
Photo via Clippestomythunder – Tumblr