LOS ANGELES – The LA Clippers are the only team to return from a 2-0 deficit in the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, and head coach Ty Lue said they can continue their post-season comebacks even if the odds are historically slim.
The Clippers went cold in the fourth quarter, including one of the worst shooting droughts in recent playoff history, with chances of tied or progressing before they suffered a grueling 84-80 loss to the Guest Phoenix suns in game 4 on Saturday night in the final of the Western Conference.
With 3-1 in the series, the Clippers will now have to fend off the elimination in Game 5 in Phoenix on Monday before they even think about doing something that has only been done four times in the history of the NBA conference finals.
“We beat Utah and won four games in a row,” said Lue of the Clippers’ second-round win in six games. “So it’s very doable.”
Teams that led 3-1 in a best-of-seven series won 95% (251-13) of the time, including 52-4 in conference finals history.
But if anyone knows what it takes to beat the odds, it’s Lue. As head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he helped the Cavs win a championship by overcoming a 3-1 deficit by the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Lues Cavaliers lost the 2017 NBA final to the Warriors after falling 3-1 in that series.
However, the Clippers will rely on their winning experience as they stand to be eliminated, as they did in Dallas in Game 6 of the first round when they were 3-2 behind. They went on to beat the Mavericks in seven games.
But that was when they had it Kawhi Leonardwho scored 45 points in that win in Game 6 in Dallas. Leonard has missed six straight games with a sprained right knee and his status for that series has been in doubt.
Paul George, who had 23 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, doesn’t want Leonard to try to return for Game 5 if it threatens his health.
“I cannot speak for him, for the good of Kawhi,” said George. “If he’s not 100, we don’t want him out there. I mean, that’s just as a brother, as a team-mate. His health is more important in the long term than what’s happening now. I can’t talk about the extent.” his injury or, you know what he is [can] and can’t give us. Like I said, his health is just more important than anything else. “
Even without Leonard, the Clippers had every chance of winning Game 4. They were behind at 52:36 at the start of the third quarter, but came within a point later in the quarter when the Staples Center crowd went wild.
But the home fans never got what they wanted so badly. The Clippers were within 71-70 at 10:07 after George made a free throw. But he missed the second foul shot, and the Clippers would miss 15 of their last 17 shots from the field. George’s missed free throw was one of five missed fouls in the 10:07 final.
Both teams went through an ugly period of missing 16 consecutive shots in the fourth quarter, the most consecutive misses by either team in the fourth quarter of a playoff game since the Celtics and Knicks missed 17 straight rounds in Game 3 of their team’s 2013 first-round series , according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
Since the Clippers only played eight main actors in the rotation, the Clippers’ legs looked worn out. After 13 games in 25 days this month, the Clippers finished 0v12 in the fourth quarter with shots that could have tied the game or taken the lead. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, these are the majority of these unsuccessful attempts in the fourth quarter of a playoff game in the past 25 post-seasons.
Lue admitted that tired legs could be the reason for the cold shooting in the fourth, but said, “There are no excuses at this time of year. The boys might be a little tired. We just have to fight our way through. We have no problem with how we fought, how we competed. Every single guy on the floor gave us what he had and offensively it just didn’t happen tonight. “
Adding to the frustration was an exclamation that the Clippers should have checked after a ball from Nicolas Batum went out of bounds. Batum argued that he put the ball away from Cameron Payne with 7.8 seconds to go. At this point, the suns were clinging to a 79:78 lead.
“If the called official has no doubts about the game, the game overview is not used,” said crew chief Zach Zarba after the game to a pool reporter. “The game can be reviewed if the official has doubts. In this case, there was no doubt about the off-field game, so no replay was used.”
Now the Clippers are flying to Phoenix on Sunday before playing Game 5 on Monday to keep their season alive. The last time they were at the Phoenix Suns Arena, George missed two crucial free throws with 8.2 seconds to go and the Clippers missed one. The suns would steal the game 104-103 from the inbounds on an alley-oop pass Jae Crowder to Deandre Ayton with seven tenths of a second remaining.
“It’s going to be tough,” said George when he came back to win this series. “It’s going to be tough. But it has to be game after game. It’s about winning or going home.”
Added Reggie Jackson“We’ve been down before. It’s tough. We had our backs to the wall and we’ve been in playoffs. The team is ready and this team is confident.”