Clippers bring string of blown leads into holiday showdown with Lakers

first_img Clippers’ Paul George: ‘If I make shots, this series could be a little different’ What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory All that proved a precursor for the monumental 31-point comeback win in Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, the largest comeback in any NBA postseason game.Not that the 2018-19 Clippers weren’t afflicted by blown leads of their own.They relinquished an eight-point lead with five minutes to go in their season-opening loss to Denver, coughed up a 24-point advantage on the road in Washington, D.C., and, most consequentially, when they were trying to hang onto the sixth seed in the playoff race, blew a 12-point second-half lead in a loss to the Lakers.But those Clippers are not these Clippers.These Clippers, as Coach Doc Rivers put it following Sunday’s loss, are “trying to go somewhere.”These Clippers are enjoying the “privilege,” as Rivers has called it, of experiencing the pressure that comes with being considered an NBA title contender, the type of team that’s expected to maintain championship-caliber focus even on the second night of back-to-backs or in the third game in four nights, and even when key players are sidelined.Related Articles Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum They’ve lost three of their last five games, have Patrick Beverley’s sore right groin to worry themselves about, and most alarmingly, have developed a knack lately for letting big leads evaporate.In each of their three most recent defeats, the Clippers were up big before faltering down the stretch: They had a 15-point lead in the second quarter before eventually falling to Chicago on the road, 109-106; they led by 17 points just before halftime and lost 122-117 at home to Houston; and they failed to protect an 18-point second-quarter advantage in Oklahoma City on Sunday before eventually losing 118-112.Those results serve as a stark contrast with last season’s Clippers, a spirited bunch of grinders who are remembered for being on the right side of so many of those comebacks.There was the 28-point comeback victory in Boston soon after the trade deadline that was, until that point, the largest comeback in franchise history and the largest road comeback in the NBA since 2009.The previous week, the Clippers rallied from a 25-point deficit in Detroit and a 20-point gap in Charlotte, becoming the only team in more than 20 seasons with three 20-plus-point comeback wins in a five-game span.center_img For all the good times and merriment they promise, the holidays are nothing if not stressful – just ask L.A.’s two NBA superteams, both of whom are limping heading into a Christmas Day rematch that seemed a week ago like it would be the stuff statements are made off.Now, the main course on Wednesday’s NBA holiday schedule suddenly seems squishier, like it might be a less substantial meal than what everyone was wishing for.The Lakers – who will host the Staples Center showdown this time – have lost three consecutive games, are 24-6 and have had significant injury concerns crop up with their two most important players: LeBron James is dealing with a muscle strain near his rib cage and Anthony Davis has ankle and knee soreness.Meanwhile, the Clippers (22-10) aren’t plowing forth with great momentum, either. “I didn’t think about Pat one time or Kawhi (Leonard) one time,” Rivers told reporters in Oklahoma City, where his team committed five turnovers in the final six minutes. “I thought we should’ve won the game with what we had on the floor. But we didn’t.”The Clippers face another team privileged with similarly weighty expectations on Wednesday, for which the Lakers’ leading men are considered questionable.Leonard and Paul George, conversely, are expected to be available for the Clippers, who are 11-3 with both of their stars in the lineup, although even that pairing hasn’t guaranteed a big lead is safe – they both played in Thursday’s fall-from-ahead defeat to Houston.The Clippers – who beat the Lakers 112-102 in the season opener (without George) – are 4-3 in games that George has participated in but Leonard has not.That includes Sunday’s loss at Oklahoma City, where they became the latest victim of a Thunder comeback. Four times this season, Oklahoma City has recovered from a deficit of 15 points or more to win, something only one other team in the NBA has four such comebacks – and the Clippers will face that squad Wednesday. Game 4 photos: Luka Doncic, Mavs shock Clippers in overtime Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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