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Clippers left with a ‘different feeling’ one loss away from elimination

Clippers forward Paul George (13) reacts after fouling Suns guard Chris Paul (3) in the fourth quarter.
Clippers forward Paul George (13) reacts after fouling Suns guard Chris Paul, left, in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 84-80 loss in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals on Saturday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

This time, the hole the Clippers are seeking to climb out of is deeper than any they have pulled themselves out of during their Western Conference playoff run that has now reached the edge of elimination.

One more shove, one more push and the season is over for a Clippers team that has withstood more than its share of pushes and shoves this postseason.

Even the Clippers had to admit that being down 3-1 to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals feels different than their other 2-0 deficits this postseason.

An 84-80 loss to the Suns at Staples Center on Saturday night put the Clippers in this unpleasant place.

The Clippers rally from a 14-point halftime deficit but struggle with their shooting in the fourth quarter in an 84-80 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

“Definitely a different feeling,” a disappointed Terance Mann said after scoring 12 points. “There’s no room for error. Just got to take it a game at a time now. Just got to try and go get Game 5 and be ready to try to force a Game 7.”

The Clippers know the odds are stacked against their resilient group.

The numbers tell the story of how teams leading 3-1 in a best-of-seven series in the conference finals boast a 52-4 record and how teams are 251-13 in any best-of-seven series.

Of course, the Clippers saw the feat accomplished against them last season in the playoffs, when they blew a 3-1 lead and lost their second-round series to the Denver Nuggets, who pulled the feat off twice last season in the NBA’s bubble by coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Utah Jazz in the first round .

This version of the Clippers has a different attitude, a belief that they can overcome, a faith in what they can do even under different circumstances.

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Highlights from the Clippers’ 84-80 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday.

The Clippers lost the first two games to the Dallas Mavericks at home in the first round and faced elimination when they went down 3-2. But the Clippers bounced back and won that series in seven games.

They lost the first two games against the Jazz in the second round on the road. But the Clippers won the next four to reach the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

“We’ve been down before,” Reggie Jackson said after an eight-for-24 shooting night left him with 20 points. “It’s tough. We’ve had our backs against the wall and we’ve been in elimination games. Team is ready and this team is confident and like I said, figure out how to be better myself, especially. I have to figure out how to be better and help the team find a shot every time I’m on the court.”

The Clippers start the long road back with Game 5 in Phoenix on Monday night.

The Clippers have played this entire series without Kawhi Leonard (right knee sprain) and it seems unlikely that he plays in Game 5.

So, that’s what the Clippers are also up against.

Clippers-Suns finals schedule
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

“Just got to take it one game at a time. Just focus on Monday’s game, that’s it,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Not focus on winning three games. Got to take it one game at a time, and that’s got to be our mindset. We beat Utah and won four games in a row. So, it’s very doable. We’ve just got to make sure we’re locked in and understand what we’re doing offensively. I think we’ve got to be more locked in offensively to beat this team.”

The Clippers were far from efficient in Game 4.

They shot just 32.5% from the field, an awful 16.1% (five for 31) from three-point range.

They had 12 opportunities to tie or take the lead, but the Clippers could not do it.

Mann said the locker room talk was to “keep your head up” and to “stay positive” because that’s what helped them climb out of the other holes they were in during these playoffs.

But …

“What can you say?, Mann said. “It’s hard being down 3-1.”


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