The Clippers are starting to learn that Milos Teodosic can deliver in the game’s most tense moments.
They are beginning to see that Teodosic is willing to step into the void when the game hangs in the balance.
On a night when his shot betrayed him through the first three quarters, Teodosic refused to back away when the Clippers needed someone to provide a lift against the Miami Heat on Saturday night.
Teodosic did, making half of his eight shots in the fourth quarter, putting the Clippers in position to win the game.
“Milos is a gamer,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “At the end of the game, he’s going to make big plays for you. He did it the other night. I just feel for him because he gets it going, we play him for two games and then we sit him a game.”
That’s perhaps the biggest challenge for the Clippers right now.
Teodosic had been out for 22 games recovering from a plantar fascia injury to his left foot.
He played in the first two games against the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic, but Teodosic was held out for rest against the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
Perhaps the limited minutes contributed to his timing being off against the Heat.
For the game, Teodosic was five for 14 from the field, two for 10 from three-point range.
His basket pulled the Clippers to within 75-74.
His three-pointer with 6 minutes 11 seconds left gave the Clippers a 77-75 lead, leading to Teodosic pumping his fist.
That’s what the Clippers are learning Teodosic can do in the clutch.
Now they just have to find a way to get him more playing time.
“He’s on this minutes’ restriction that’s driving him crazy,” Rivers said. “I’m good with it. But it does, it throws him off. So, as it goes on, he’ll be able to go a couple more minutes and I think that will help him as well.”
Clippers seek better execution
The next step for the Clippers in these close games is execution.
They keep staying in the game late, but have not been able to close out enough of the games with a win.
Against the Heat, the Clippers turned the ball over six times in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re getting pretty close,” Rivers said about executing better. “But clearly with some of your young guys, I don’t think young guys understand how important is in execution and things like that. I honestly don’t expect them to right away. I just think that’s asking a lot. So what I’m asking them to do is play hard, try to listen and play to win. And if we can do those things, we have a chance to win.”
Austin Rivers returns
“I’ll be back and ready to play,” Rivers said. “I’m good to go.”
VS. SAN ANTONIO
When: Monday, 5:30 p.m., Staples Center
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330
Update: DeAndre Jordan, who is second in the NBA in rebounding (14.9), has had five 20-plus rebound games, which lead the NBA. Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who had been out with a right quadriceps injury, has returned and played in two games.