LOS ANGELES — The Clippers — playing consecutive afternoon games — came back from down 25 to take a 1-point lead, 101-100, with 17 seconds remaining only to see Austin Rivers miss a pair of free throws that ultimately led to a 104-101 victory for the Miami Heat. It was the team’s second straight loss of the weekend.
“[I’m] more upset about falling behind by 25,” head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “Coming back shows a lot of heart, a lot of fight and you learn something about yourself but you shouldn’t put yourself in that position in the first place. It’s a good learning game for us.”
All teams in the Pacific division have to deal with early starts. It shouldn’t be an excuse, but it’s clearly an issue with the Clippers struggling to get out of the gates in both their 12:30 matchups this weekend.
“It’s tough when you lose a game like that and you play the way that we played throughout the first three quarters,” Rivers added. “The second-unit saved us; they were spectacular. We had all five second-unit guys on the floor when we were down 20, maybe even more. They’re the team that got us back into the game, they just played hard. They did it with their energy. [Lou Williams]had a stretch for us that was great, but we gave up so many shots all game. Right now, defensively, we aren’t giving ourselves a change to win games, so we have to fix that.”
The Clippers woke up by the fourth quarter, but the comeback efforts were largely futile after Austin Rivers missed a pair of free throws with the Clippers up one point.
They opened the quarter scoring the first 16 points to trip the Miami lead to just seven, 89-82. It wasn’t that the ball finally started going in the basket, but the defense finally had the intensity it needed for the previous 36 minutes of play. Miami missed their first 10 shots of the fourth quarter.
“I give a lot of credit to the Clippers,” Heat forward James Johnson said. “They kept fighting, especially that unit that came in during the fourth quarter. They brought a different pace and a different style and we kind of relaxed. Those are the kind of moments that we don’t need and we’re still working. It’s still early, but the kind of character that we showed today by coming back and just being okay with the situation [helped us] get it done.”
The Clippers hit the road for their next three games, against the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and New Orleans Pelicans.
“The road can sometimes be very mean, and sometimes it can be great,” Rivers said. “I have always found early road trips to be not bad for your team because you’re forced to spend time with each other on the road and you just try to build, but we don’t have easy games. We are a team right now where every game is not an easy game, so we have to be ready to play.”