There goes another opportunity to win on the road. The Clips are now 0-9 for the season and keep finding ways to lose road games. They fought hard to the end, even getting some timely threes from Cookie and some slashes to the rim by Gordon in the final plays to keep the game close. But no matter what, the Clippers just couldn’t close the door.
What made this so unfortunate was the fact that the Clips looked like they were outplaying the Nuggets for the majority of the night. Carmelo Anthony did score 26, but they were a hard 26. He shot 6 for 18 from the field, which looks even better than it was. He was a complete non-factor in the first half, at one point he was 2 for 9 and flailing. But the Nuggets found other ways to score, mainly the free-throw line and some late energy from J.R. Smith (21 points on 6 for 10 shooting).
In fairness to the Clippers, they should have won. But the disparity at the free-throw line (the Nuggets shot 59 free throws to the Clippers 29) and the half court gut-punch by Ty Lawson to beat the 3rd quarter buzzer were just too much. It just seemed like the ball was bouncing the Nuggets way tonight. In the closing minutes, Blake punched out a steal, only for Eric Gordon to mishandle it and foul. It could have continued the surge, but instead, the Nuggets shot more free throws. This happens on the road, but there is going to be a point when the young Clips will have to surmount those bad breaks and win games. Will it happen soon? I don’t know, but their perseverance will eventually lead them to win these types of close games.
There is more good news for the Clips: both Kaman and Baron played tonight. This created one of the stranger situations as neither started. At one point in the third quarter the bench was in. And it was all vets (Baron, Rasual, Gomes, Rhino and Kaman). What should be noted is Kaman’s good play in the first half. It was demonstrably better than his play earlier in the year. The time off really did him well. He did not look hobbled, even having 8 points and 6 rebounds in the first half. He didn’t finish with much more than that, only 10 points, but Kaman’s play bodes well for the future.
Also, Baron’s play continued in the unselfish, facilitator mode. He finished with 8 points, 6 assists and 5 steals in 20 minutes of play. He still didn’t shoot well, but he took fewer than 10 shots (9) and created the spacing necessary for the Clips to have a more than competent offense. My favorite play was when Baron stole the ball, dribbled the length of the court and had this mini lob through two Nuggets defenders for a Blake Griffin slam. It was just good basketball all around.
Of course, if the Clippers lost and their offense looked better, that means their defense was bad. Again, they let the three ball kill them. The Nuggets shot 41.7 percent from behind the arc. Unlike the Spurs on Wednesday, the Nuggets didn’t miss their open three pointers, J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson combined for 6 for 9 shooting behind the line. Just like the Clippers to let the peripheral players to knock down threes. Completely frustrating.
And what’s worse, is that they did a good job on the inside. The Nuggets shot 40.3 percent inside 3 point line. Kaman was helpful in his 13 minutes and Blake Griffin, uncharacteristic of his play to this point, blocked two shots.
Completely frustrating. The Clippers continue to show signs of development, but tonight there weren’t the same amount of highlight reel plays to distract from the fact that the Clippers are, right now, a collection of good players forming a bad basketball team.