Clippers’ comeback bid falls short this time in loss at Miami

The Clippers' Eric Bledsoe goes up for a shot as the Heat's Tyler Herro, left, and Caleb Martin defend Jan. 28, 2022.
The Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe, who scored 19 points, goes up for a shot as the Heat’s Tyler Herro, left, and Caleb Martin defend Friday. The Clippers lost 121-114.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Moments after Clippers coach Tyronn Lue had finished his postgame interview, he walked away and sighed.

“Aw, man,” Lue said.

His team had just endured another large deficit, the Clippers trailing the Miami Heat by 23 points in the third quarter.

And his team had just made another furious rally, slicing that deficit to four points, putting Miami on its heels late in the fourth quarter.


But unlike the three previous games on this eight-game trip the Clippers rallied to win, they couldn’t pull this one out, falling to the Heat 121-114 at Miami on Friday night.

The Clippers had come back from 24 points down to win at Philadelphia and from 35 down to win at Washington, setting a franchise record for largest comeback and tying for the NBA’s second-largest comeback since 1996, when the league began recording play-by-play data. The Clippers also came back from 14 points down at Orlando.

The Clippers' Luke Kennard goes to the basket over the Heat's Duncan Robinson, left, and P.J. Tucker (17).
The Clippers’ Luke Kennard, who had 23 points off the bench, goes to the basket over the Heat’s Duncan Robinson, left, and P.J. Tucker (17).
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

In truth, getting down and then coming back is taking a toll on Lue.

“I’m tired of it,” Lue said.

He then laughed.

“It’s exhausting,” Lue said. “But we do what we can. We scrape and compete. When we find the right combinations, we stick with it and they stick with it as well, knowing that we can come back and just continuing doing what we’ve been doing, playing hard, competing, making the right basketball play and we’ll be able to get back in the game. Like I said, we’ve done it all year long. It’s not something that we want to continue to keep doing.”

Their two stars have missed most of the season and many of their roll players have also been out. Yet coach Tyronn Lue has kept the Clippers relevant.

The Clippers fell into a hole this time because Heat point guard Gabe Vincent caught fire.

Vincent made his first six three-pointers in the third, a big reason why the Heat opened an 85-62 lead that had the Clippers reeling.

He finished the game seven for 12 from three-point range, scoring 18 of his 23 points in the third.

“I just thought it got away from us in the third quarter when Gabe was able to make those [six] threes,” Lue said.

But these are the Clippers, and they have a sense that no deficit is too large for them to overcome.

So when they trimmed the margin to 11 in the third, their confidence began to grow again.

Miami's Jimmy Butler dunks during the first half Jan. 28, 2022.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler, who scored 26 points, dunks during the first half.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Lue went to his small, energy lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Luke Kennard, Justise Winslow, Brandon Boston Jr. and Jay Scrubb. When Lue made changes, it was Terance Mann and Amir Coffey back with the small-ball group.

Kennard had 16 of his 23 in the fourth to help the Clippers’ cause. Bledsoe came off the bench to score 19 points, Coffey had 15 points and Winslow had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“When we play that lineup, we play small ball,” Coffey said. “We try and get out in transition. As soon as we get the rebound, all five guys are running. On the offensive side, it’s a lot of small-small pick-and-rolls and just a lot of interchangeable things because essentially we’re playing with five guards out there.”

Even when the Clippers trailed by 18 in the fourth, there, of course, was no giving up.

After Kennard got a steal and passed to Coffey, the Clippers got to within 117-113 with 33.9 seconds left.

But that was as close as it would be.

“I was cramping up tonight, to be honest, my left calf,” Winslow said. “But basketball should be hard. You should be sweating. You should be wanting Gatorade. You shouldn’t be able to play all the minutes straight like I did. I don’t know how I did it. My leg was hurting a bit.

“But, man, this is what you want as a competitor, to be in these close games, to be able to fight and claw back. But it’s definitely an exhausting sport.”