Clippers miss the postseason after blowing two double-digit leads in the play-in tournament, disappointing the city of Los Angeles with both teams having underperformed.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
The Clippers dropped two play-in games despite having double-digit leads in the fourth quarter of both, unable to finish strong as they were doomed to another lost season.
Paul George’s 34 points, five assists and seven rebounds were not enough to close out game one against Minnesota, as the Timberwolves found a way to win the contest even after their captain, Karl-Anthony Towns, fouled out.
In the second game, the Clippers could not find their offensive footing with George unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols. The New Orleans Pelicans walked away with the hard-fought victory after the Clippers missed 12 free throws and shot 25 percent from three, cementing another unsuccessful season into the books.
“Tough situation tonight, that it ended the way it did,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said in a postgame interview following the loss to the Pelicans. “For the guys in the locker room who have been scrapping, the way we competed all year long, no matter who played, no matter who was in the rotation, it’s most disappointing for those guys in the locker room.”
The race against the Minnesota Timberwolves was tight through three quarters. The Clippers opened up a ten point lead with about nine minutes left in the fourth, leaving the Timberwolves dead in the water when Towns fouled out two minutes later. However, an ensuing 21-5 run gave the Timberwolves the push they needed.
Minnesota’s three-time all star only scored 11 points while turning the ball over four times, but with D’Angelo Russell putting up 29 points and Anthony Edwards scoring 30, the Timberwolves had just enough to force the Clippers to go home for another play-in game.
While not having a great game offensively, Patrick Beverley provided the toughness Minnesota lacked in previous seasons, stealing the ball from Reggie Jackson with 22 seconds left to secure the 109-104 victory. He jumped on the scorer’s table and threw his jersey into the crowd in celebration, leaving his former team in the dust.
The second game against the Pelicans was told through many offensive runs.
The Pelicans opened up a 10-point lead at halftime as they looked to run away with a victory, but the Clippers opened the second half on a 20-2 run thanks to their lockdown defense and their offense finally clicking.
The Clippers took a 13-point lead in the fourth, but the Pelicans went on a 14-1 run of their own to even the score late in the game.
Tied at 94 with about four minutes left, it was the Pelicans who emerged, scoring the next seven points. But the Clippers would not go away. A three from Norman Powell and a layup from Robert Covington made the score 101-99 with one minute left.
A bad foul allowed the Pelicans to tack on two more points from the charity strike, but Jackson hit one of his own to make the score 103-100. With 26 seconds left, the Clippers were forced to play the foul game and were fortunate that Larry Nance Jr. missed both free throws. But at the other end, Powell made one of two, cutting the lead to two with 17 seconds left.
As the Clippers scrambled for a steal, a dunk by Jonas Valanciunas sealed the deal and gave the Pelicans the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 105-101 victory.
“Obviously we wanted to make the playoffs and I thought that from the season we had and all the ups and downs that we deserved to,” Clippers power forward Marcus Morris, who scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds, said in a post-elimination interview. “But give [the Pelicans] credit. They played well, stayed resilient when they were down and they got the win.”
Outside of the third quarter spurt, the Clippers were too inefficient to come away with a victory, leaving the playoffs without representation from L.A. for the first time since 2018.