Just a few months after the LA Clippers became the third NBA team to twice blow a 3-1 lead in the playoffs, questions have been raised about their ability to see off games from dominant positions. The LA Clippers have already lost six NBA games this season after entering the fourth quarter with the lead.
The LA Clippers sought to resolve the issue of closing out games by adding the experienced Rajon Rondo to the roster. Though the veteran is having one of his worst statistical seasons, the move seems to be sourced from the belief that he will come good when the playoffs arrive.
NBA 2020-21: 3 matches that expose the LA Clippers’ inability to close out matches from winning positions
The LA Clippers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals last year had threatened to lead to a large-scale roster shuffle. The series defeat raised serious doubts about whether the Clippers could contend for the title with the same core.
They fired coach Doc Rivers and promoted assistant coach Tyronn Lue to the top job and added the likes of Serge Ibaka to the roster to win that elusive NBA title. Despite having a new head coach and a better roster, they have still lost multiple times from winning positions.
Below, we look at three games where the LA Clippers have lost despite being in a comfortable position.
#1 LA Clippers vs Brooklyn Nets – 3rd February 2021
What stands out in this February 2021 matchup is the fact that the LA Clippers had one of the quickest starts that they have had so far. They were up by eight points at the end of the first quarter. However, they struggled to cope with the likes of Kevin Durant, Irving and James Harden in the absence of Patrick Beverley.
The Nets’ star trio hit back in the second quarter as the LA Clippers’ lead was cut to just 2 points at the start of the fourth. They started the fourth quarter strongly and were leading by five points with just over four minutes left on the clock.
But the Clippers lost the plot offensively and were outscored by nine points in the last four minutes, losing the game by four points. The Nets' trio of Durant, Irving and Harden combined for 29 points in the fourth quarter to sink the Clippers.
#2 Sacramento Kings vs LA Clippers – 8th February 2021
In another game that showcased their struggles to close out games, the LA Clippers fought their way to a 1-point lead at the end of the third quarter in this match. They started the second half strongly and were leading by 5 points before De'Aaron Fox took over. At one point, the LA Clippers were losing by 9 points with 4:18 remaining in the quarter and went on a 9-0 run to tie the game.
The likes of Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams combined for 43 points, as the absence of Paul George meant that De’Aaron Fox could take over the game in the fourth. Fox produced 22 of his overall 36 points in the fourth quarter and took over proceedings. Leonard was left with too much to do, with Paul George’s injury concerns something of a constant for the LA Clippers through the early part of the season.
#3 Orlando Magic vs LA Clippers
In their most recent loss from a winning position, the LA Clippers were leading by a whopping 14 points at the end of the first half. Leonard, Zubac and Luke Kennard had combined for 34 points in the first two quarters and it looked like it will be an easy day for the LA Clippers.
However, a second-half fightback led by Chuma Okeke meant that the LA Clippers ended up losing the game by seven points. Otto Porter and Terrence Ross were impressive off the bench, while Mohammed Bamba also produced 7 points in the third quarter. Okeke finished the game with 18 points, with a total of four bench players hitting double digits for the Orlando Magic.