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Clippers can't get the job done in fourth quarter and fall to Bucks

DeAndre Jordan convulsed and cursed at midcourt in the third quarter of the Clippers game with the Milwaukee Bucks, the four-letter words and the physical spasms a celebration of his team at its absolute best.

After Jordan rejected a shot by Giannis Antetokounmpo, he flew over and blocked Malcolm Brogdon's shot off the backboard on the next play, triggering a fastbreak that led to two easy points.

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It was the kind of play the Clippers made all the time during their 14-2 start that had them looking like maybe the best team in the NBA. And, it's the kind of play they'll need to make more of to keep from being one of the league's biggest disappointments.

After three strong quarters of good defensive basketball, the Clippers couldn't get enough stops down the stretch in a 97-96 loss Wednesday night.

"We couldn't get the string of stops you need to be a great team," Coach Doc Rivers said.

Even when the Clippers did hold Milwaukee to scoreless possessions, like the one that set up a Jordan basket and free throw to make it a one-point game, it came off a low-percentage gamble from Jamal Crawford that left Tony Snell wide open in the corner and left Rivers wincing.

After the basket, the Clippers finally executed on defense, forcing a missed Antetokounmpo shot and giving them 5.2 seconds and a chance to steal a win.

But Blake Griffin couldn't find enough space in the crowded paint and his game-winning attempt rolled off the rim.

"It was a decent look," Griffin said. "Wish we had two more seconds to let it develop."

Milwaukee scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, giving the Clippers their second consecutive loss.

And things don't get easier Thursday, with the Clippers heading to Denver for one of the toughest back-to-backs an NBA schedule can offer. The team will leave Jordan and Griffin home to rest.

Wednesday, Jordan led the Clippers with 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Griffin had 18 points, but Chris Paul scored only six points.

In the Clippers locker room, players have publicly and privately wondered why the team is giving up 13 points more per 100 possessions in the games since the All-Star break and struggling to win.

Part of the problem certainly can be attributed to the Clippers' issues with health, problems that have forced the team in and out of the schemes and principals they want to use. But, that's not the only issue.

The Clippers have struggled to hold focus, have panicked in key moments against the very best in the league and have made things even harder on themselves with their rebounding and turnover problems.

In Wednesday's tightly contested game, the turnover problems were particularly troublesome, with Paul, the Clippers normally sure-handed point guard, turning it over six times, including on multiple fourth-quarter possessions.

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The 16 total turnovers put the Clippers defense at a disadvantage, helping Milwaukee score 18 points to the single point the Clippers managed off of the Bucks' 11 turnovers.

"That's tough to win games like that," Rivers said.

If the Clippers looked remotely like the team that began the season playing with supreme confidence on the defensive end, they could've probably withstood the offensive woes.

But they're not there.

"The one thing you can always control is effort and our effort hasn't always been there at times," Griffin said.

Rivers knows what it's like to be a part of a defensive juggernaut. The New York Knicks teams on which he played in the 1990s were nearly impossible to score against.

"You honestly felt like we're gonna make a defensive run, and we're going to make the next 10 stops," Rivers said of the Knicks teams before Wednesday's game.

"That's how you literally felt, and then the game was over. Like you really believed that that was going to happen at some point, no matter how good that team was offensively. It takes a lot to get there."

And it's going to take the Clippers a lot to get even a little of that back.

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