Clippers Coach Doc Rivers couldn’t complain about his team’s effort Wednesday night, not when he had Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, DeAndre Jordan, Darren Collison and Matt Barnes all playing 37 or more grueling minutes.
Rivers didn’t like that his team turned the ball over 20 times and that the Clippers’ defense came and went at times, leaving him to live with Los Angeles’ 116-112 defeat to the Miami Heat at Staples Center.
Rivers’ team was down by as many as 19 points in the second quarter and by 17 in the third but made a game of it by getting to within two points late before losing.
Griffin showed how far his game has come, with his season-high 43 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in 40 minutes 19 seconds.
Jamal Crawford had 31 points and six assists in 46:38, Jordan 16 points and 16 rebounds in 40:32, Barnes 12 points in 40:19 and Collison five points in 37:54
“Blake, Jamal, all the players played extremely hard,” Rivers said. “Listen, this is what you want from your players. It’s a human game. Sometimes you don’t play perfect. Sometimes you make mistakes.”
The turnovers are what hurt the Clippers.
The Clippers had defeated the Heat five consecutive times in Los Angeles and amazingly enough, LeBron James had not won a game (0-3) against the Clippers since joining the Heat in 2010.
But James scored 31 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out 12 assists to stop that streak.
“I felt we had too many turnovers,” Griffin said. “And I thought we were constantly fighting uphill against them and you can’t do that to a team like that.”
Down two points with 1:17 left, the Clippers needed a stop.
The Clippers dug down, forcing Dwyane Wade into making a pass to Ray Allen as the 24-second clock was winding down.
But Allen gathered himself and knocked down a three-pointer from the corner with 42.4 seconds left for a 112-107 Heat lead.
Rivers called a timeout, knowing that he had seen Allen do that many times before when the two of them were with the Boston Celtics.
Rivers put the ball into the hands of Crawford , who was called for charging into James with 37.1 seconds left.
James made one of two free throws for a 113-107 Heat lead that stood.
It didn’t help the Clippers to not have their starting backcourt.
Point guard Chris Paul missed his 17th consecutive game with a separated right shoulder and J.J. Redick sat out with a sore right hip.
Griffin’s lob dunk pulled the Clippers to within 99-95 and then he tipped in his own missed shot over James to pull the Clippers to within 99-97.
Now it was a game, the Clippers having climbed back from a 43-24 second-quarter deficit when they looked like they were going to get run out of the gym, their defense nowhere to be found.
The Clippers started the game playing little defense, watching the Heat make its first six shots and 15 of its first 18, but they stayed in the game in part because they destroyed the Heat on the backboards.
Miami is the worst rebounding team in the NBA, averaging only 36.9 per game, and the Clippers took advantage, outrebounding the Heat, 52-31.
And when Griffin tipped in yet another of his misses, it pulled the Clippers to within 107-103.
After Allen scored, Jordan scored on a lob and Crawford scored again after James committed his seventh turnover of the game, pulling the Clippers to within 109-107. Then Allen struck again.