Clippers claw back from 18 down to beat Heat
His hands covering his head, his body collapsed into a full crouch inside the pink-and-turquoise paint, Reggie Jackson realized his mistake immediately.
The Clippers guard had intended to help. Seeing teammate Marcus Morris struggle to pass out of a double team, 85 feet from his own basket, Jackson had called for a timeout with 27 seconds remaining in Thursday’s fourth quarter in Miami. Except the Clippers had none remaining. Their six-point lead was about to be trimmed after the decision gifted the Heat a technical foul shot.
Slowly rising from his crouch, Jackson took a circuitous path toward his own bench inside Miami’s American Airlines Arena as if to avoid the reactions of his initially stunned teammates as long as possible. Yet instead of wrath, he encountered center Serge Ibaka waiting, arms extended. Jackson yelled, trying to pull away from Ibaka’s hug, but it was in vain against the 7-footer’s strength. Center Ivica Zubac came over to tap Jackson on the shoulder. Second-year guard Terance Mann joined the impromptu huddle.
“All the guys said, ‘Next play,’” coach Tyronn Lue said. “It was a mistake. So what? Next play, let’s get a stop coming out of the timeout. It was something that happened; it’s over.”
With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley out indefinitely, the Clippers turned to Marcus Morris and Lou Williams to help fill the void.
Soon, so was a 109-105 Clippers victory, and with it a lesson — not only about how they hope to survive without three starters in the short term but why they believe they are beginning to set themselves up for more success later this season.
To have any hope of winning Thursday, when Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley missed their second consecutive game, the Clippers were forced to pull together. It helped them rally from an 18-point first-quarter deficit, make nine three-pointers in the third quarter — matching the most ever made in a single quarter in team history— and hang on during a nervy fourth quarter that saw the Clippers’ 19-point lead sliced to single digits for nearly the entire, last eight minutes.
It led Lue to shake his head as his postgame videoconference began. No coach draws up a chaotic blueprint to win like that.
But it was the calm exhibited by Ibaka that became the night’s telling moment for a team whose spectacular unraveling only four months earlier during the postseason led to questions about how close the roster truly was.
“This is a game where some things happen,” Morris said. “It would have been the right call. We just didn’t have timeouts. We still got the win so what we told him is we still need him. … Everybody surrounded him and said next play and move on. It wasn’t as bad as Chris Webber’s play.”
There is still no timetable for when Leonard and George (health and safety protocols) and Beverley (right knee) will join their teammates again, but on a night when Miami dealt with its own attrition, with Jimmy Butler, Avery Bradley and Andre Iguodala all out, the Clippers turned to their depth to improve to 14-5.
Six players scored in double figures, led by Nic Batum’s 18 points, all scored on three-pointers.
Morris scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, Jackson added 16 and Lou Williams came off the bench to add 18.
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George out because of COVID-19 protocols , the Clippers learn “next man up” might not work in a superstar-driven league.
Tyler Herro, playing for the first time in seven games because of a neck injury, scored 19 points to lead Miami (6-12).
Despite missing 13 of their first 14 three-pointers to trail 33-15, the Clippers finished 40% (17-of-42) from deep to help turn the game during a second quarter in which they closed the half on a 33-17 run.
“The way we start the game really sucked, I’d say,” Batum said. “But after that, the way we moved the ball, the way we’re sharing the ball, the way we tried to involve everyone. The last five minutes and the second quarter and the third quarter was amazing. The way we played, we made stops on defense, and we were sharing the ball and we moved the ball on offense. That’s the way we have to play, with Kawhi and PG and Pat Bev for sure, but especially without them.”
They had enough Thursday to avoid what would have been back-to-back losses for the first time this season. A rally that started with deep shots ended by the timely decision to take a deep breath.
“It was a bad mistake, but see our reaction?” Batum said. “Nobody was mad. ... We’re gonna make mistakes, we’re all gonna make mistakes, but we just move on, We’ve got to stick together. That’s the team this year. That’s the spirit of this team, and I love it.”
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