The Los Angeles Clippers have developed a curious habit of late. They've lost three of their last four games, and each of those losses came when they fell far behind by playing disinterested basketball for three quarters before finally attempting a comeback in the fourth. Last Monday in Minnesota, they trailed the Timberwolves by as much as 15, and by 11 in the fourth quarter, before they finally clamped down on defense. Chris Paul had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but missed the last of three free throws. Last Wednesday in New Jersey, the Clippers trailed the Nets by 18 in the third quarter. This time the Clippers managed to take a two-point lead with less than 10 seconds to go on a pair of Paul free throws -- but Jordan Farmar hit a three pointer in the final seconds to give New Jersey the win.
Sunday night in Los Angeles is was the Golden State Warriors' turn. The Clippers once again were thoroughly outplayed for most of the first three quarters. The Warriors took a 15-point lead in the first quarter and built it all the way up to 21 with just 2:32 left in the third quarter. At that point the Clippers finally woke up. Over the next 10 minutes, they outscored the Warriors 28-7 to tie the game at 83. But once again, after expending so much energy to get back into the game, the Clippers didn't have anything left to actually finish it.
The Clippers had two possessions to take the lead at 83-83 but failed to do so. Eventually, the Warriors got their act back together, outscoring the Clippers, 8-1, over the next couple of minutes to put the game away for a 97-93 victory.
Out of character for the Clippers, the bench got them back into the game. The starters all had negative plus/minus ratings for the evening, four of them in double figures, while the reserves were all in plus territory. Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe in particular had an impact. He finished the game +12 in 16 minutes, and his defense on Monta Ellis in the fourth quarter briefly turned the game for the Clippers. Unexpectedly, when coach Vinny Del Negro inserted Chris Paul back into the lineup, the Clippers comeback stalled.
The Warriors, one of the worst defensive teams in the league this season, frustrated the Clippers all night. Blake Griffin finished the game with 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Paul, playing with a mask to protect a broken nose suffered Friday in San Antonio, finished with 23. Each had to work much harder for scores than they usually do.
On offense, Ellis carried much of the load with 21 points and 11 assists while David Lee had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Dorell Wright staked the Warriors to their big early lead. Wright scored 16 points in the first quarter, making all six of his field goals including four three-pointers, the last one from well beyond 30 feet. Wright scored as many first quarter points as the entire Clippers team, and the Warriors rode his hot hand to a 28-16 lead. The rest of the game the Clippers were trying to climb their way back into the game -- but for the third time in four games, they fell just short.
The win improves the Warriors to 17-21; the Clippers drop to 23-16.