Fourth-quarter drought dooms Clippers vs Nets

Clippers looked primed for victory before getting blown out late.

LOS ANGELES — The Clippers and Nets entered Saturday’s matinee with momentum, both winners of multiple games in the past week-plus. But after three-and-a-half quarters of sluggish shooting, interspersed with brilliance from Kevin Durant, neither team capitalized on the momentum of their recent play. 

That was until Seth Curry took over and the Nets used an extended run to turn a game that looked there for the Clippers’ taking into a Nets, 110-95, runaway.

Curry, in just his fifth game of the season, scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and, along with Durant’s game-high 27 points, led Brooklyn on a 20-2 run over a 5-minute span in the final quarter. 

“I think our physicality on defense kind of dropped,” Clippers guard Norman Powell said. “They were able to zip the ball around and have us in some rotations.”

Powell converted a layup for the Clippers with 7:42 remaining to give the Clippers a 2-point lead. It was the fourth time in the second half that LA was able to claim the lead despite shooting 40-percent from the field and committing 18 turnovers. At one point in the third quarter, they went scoreless for six-and-a-half minutes, only to keep the game close with timely, scrambling defense. 

“Defensively, we double-teamed Durant and he made the right play and their guys made shots,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “In our double teams, we were just flying around in close-out situations, and they made us pay for that, especially in the fourth quarter when Seth Curry got hot.”

The prolonged droughts, though, proved unsustainable. 

“Offensively, I think we just got a little stagnant, holding the ball a little bit, too much iso, and not having to have them work defensively,” Powell said. “We missed a couple tough shots, which fueled their transition attack and got us back on our heels.” 

Lue added: “We didn’t play the right way offensively.”

It’s the second time this season the Clippers (7-6) have been unable to find their way during an afternoon affair at Arena (losing two weeks ago to New Orleans in a Sunday matinee).

On Saturday, they hung around long enough to make it interesting. 

Superstar Paul George, who entered the game having scored 26 or more points in six consecutive games, was held to 17 points on 5-for-21 shooting. Powell chipped in 16 points which matched Ivica Zubac’s 16 points and 15 rebounds. John Wall added 14 points and 6 assists off the bench.

The bench was one of the bright spots for the Clippers. They amassed 34 points and seemed to regularly tilt the game in their favor. Trailing by four points entering the fourth quarter, the group led by Wall, Powell, and Terance Mann, helped them race to a two-point lead.

The same group erased an early eight-point deficit across the first and second quarter, spurred by playing with pace and, as Powell said, attacking downhill. They opened the second quarter on a 12-5 run. And in the third quarter Wall converted a wild layup between three defenders, where it appeared he intended to pass before reversing the ball off the glass upon hearing the whistle. 

But for every attacking play that helped keep the score close early, the Clippers seemed to settle for too many long jumpers. During Brooklyn’s game-altering fourth-quarter run, the Clippers missed four-consecutive 3-pointers and committed a turnover on five possessions in a row. 

Curry, on the other hand, made all four of his 3-pointers in the fourth and that was all it took for the Clippers’ recent stretch of wins to end. 

They’ll have an opportunity to get back in the win column on Monday on the road against the Houston Rockets, a team they’ve already defeated twice in the past two weeks.  

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