Clippers’ playoff hopes take another hit when they falter at the finish against Pacers
A Clippers season that always seemed to be on the edge because of a multitude of injuries has now reached the brink.
The slim margin for error the Clippers had this late in the season has inched them closer to the end of their 2017-18 campaign following a disappointing 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center before a quiet crowd of 15,866 fans.
“It’s been difficult before tonight. This one doesn’t hurt more than the ones we lost last week or the week before that,” said Lou Williams, who did his part for the Clippers by scoring 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. “We’ve been in critical mode for a few weeks now. So we lose this one, it hurt. Obviously you’re going to put more emphasis on this one than the other ones.”
The Clippers have five games left in the regular season to make one last push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They are in a tight race with the Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans and Denver Nuggets for the final two playoff spots.
“The scenario has been consistent,” Williams said. “It’s half our responsibility and half some other team’s responsibility. We got to concentrate on the things that we can do in order to put ourselves in the best position possible. So we just got to go out and play hard.”
The Clippers did that against the Pacers in the early stages of the second quarter, building a 16-point lead but by the end of the first half the Clippers had lost their momentum and the lead was down to one point.
Indiana All-Star guard Victor Oladipo made sure it stayed that way by scoring 30 points and handing out 12 assists.
There were two late-game plays that turned the tide for the Clippers.
DeAndre Jordan was called for a flagrant foul 1 when he shoved Lance Stephenson on a dunk attempt with 3 minutes 24 seconds left and the Clippers trailing by one point.
Stephenson made one of two free throws for a 96-94 Pacers lead, but they got the basketball back and increased the lead to 99-94 on an Oladipo three-pointer.
The Clippers crawled back to within 105-104 with 1:11 left when Tobias Harris, who finished with 21 points, made a three-pointer.
The Clippers needed a defensive stop but they didn’t get it, deciding to double-team Darren Collison with Tyrone Wallace and having him leave Bojan Bogdanovic open for a three-pointer that settled into the net for the back-breaker that put the Clippers in a 108-104 hole for the game and the rest of the season.
“We need to go five for five,” said Danilo Gallinari, referring to how many wins the Clippers must have to participate in the postseason.
“If we don’t go five for five, we won’t make the playoffs. It’s very simple. So, even if going five-for-five, I don’t think that percentagewise for the playoff possibility is good. But we got to go five for five, and I think hoping that other teams lose.”
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