Clippers’ comeback can not overcome Joel Embiid, 76ers

Doc Rivers and Tyronn Lue, the longtime NBA coach and his former player-turned-protégé-turned-Clippers successor, nonetheless discuss usually and Rivers characterised these conversations as “fun” — throughout the summer time.

It isn’t the frequency of their talks that modifications throughout the season — it’s the tone.

“I don’t know if we talk, or we commiserate,” Rivers stated Tuesday, when his Philadelphia 76ers arrived at Area to face the Clippers. “I don’t even know which one we do at times, but it feels like we do the latter more than the talk.”

Lue, for the previous three seasons, has been offered with the identical problem Rivers couldn’t in the end remedy throughout his closing season with the Clippers, in 2020: Find out how to construct a cohesive championship contender with out roster continuity, the place a staff’s restrict can’t be discovered with so many gamers enjoying underneath minutes limits. The countless cycle has constructed frustration, not vital profitable streaks.

“I’ve lived that life,” Rivers stated. “Now they’ve been through playoff wars [under Lue]. They at least have that, but it’s still disrupting. It’s hard, you know, it’s just so tough to … you just need games in a row.”

Simply as accidents and workload-related absences restricted Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the franchise’s pillars, to overlap for less than 37 regular-season video games throughout their first season, it has remained the case throughout their fourth. Tuesday marked solely the sixteenth time this season, in 46 probabilities, that Leonard and George have performed collectively.

The Clippers at the moment are 9-7 in these video games, and 23-23 total, after their comeback from down 14 factors couldn’t be sustained in a 120-110 loss to Philadelphia, a promising rally towards one of many East’s rising contenders imploding underneath the load of 19 turnovers and 35% taking pictures within the fourth quarter.

“We’ve just been behind the 8-ball just in terms of injuries and lineups and guys in and out,” stated George, who scored 13 factors on 11 pictures in his return from a hamstring harm that price him 5 video games.

Mentioned Leonard, who scored 27 factors, together with one other explosive dunk: “We’ve got a lot to improve still. Once we do that consistently, we’ll see where we are.”

One month in the past, Lue stated he needed to see his staff play collectively for a 15-game stretch to know its true potential. Earlier than tipoff Tuesday night time inside Area, he stated he would take a 10-game pattern measurement. All of the whereas, the commerce deadline inches nearer because the Clippers monitor the marketplace for a long-term reply at backup middle and assist at level guard.

“I know we have a good team,” Lue stated. “But as far as staying healthy, we need to establish some continuity.”

Philadelphia 76ers middle Joel Embiid shoots throughout the first half towards the Clippers on Tuesday at Area.

(Ashley Landis / Related Press)

However there is no such thing as a assure it should ever occur because the roster stays a turnstile. As quickly as George returned Tuesday, backup level guard John Wall was sidelined for what the staff estimated could be two weeks after straining an stomach muscle in a loss Friday to Denver. Backup guard Luke Kennard, one of many NBA’s most dear shooters, watched for a fifth consecutive recreation, his irritated calf in sweatpants once more.

Lue stated George confirmed the anticipated rust, together with 5 turnovers. The trio, together with George, Leonard and new beginning guard Terance Mann, had performed solely 17 minutes collectively this season earlier than Tuesday. And Tuesday’s beginning lineup, which added ahead Marcus Morris Sr. and middle Ivica Zubac, had by no means performed collectively.

After solely two first-quarter turnovers, the Clippers dedicated eight within the second quarter that Philadelphia (28-16) was 13 factors. They once more thwarted their very own rally plans after taking an 85-81 lead with two minutes remaining within the third quarter, unable to muster a discipline objective throughout one six-minute stretch of the ultimate 14 minutes. Leonard scored 14 within the third quarter, however none within the fourth.

In his final two video games that preceded his absence, George took 25 pictures however solely 4 contained in the paint and two on the rim. Towards Philadelphia, his first shot was a jumper he swished one step in entrance of the free-throw line. For his second, he turned a post-up right into a dunk. Of his 11 pictures, six have been within the paint, however with Joel Embiid controlling the paint, scoring 20 of his 41 factors there, the 76ers simply resisted the Clippers’ cost.

“It’s a tough stretch for us, but we’ve been through worse and so our psyche’s good,” Lue stated. “We just gotta fight our way out of this.”

They need to summon that battle rapidly, going through a remaining schedule ranked because the league’s second hardest. Beginning with Wednesday’s recreation in Salt Lake Metropolis — a recreation George will miss whereas the staff stays cautious along with his return from harm — the Clippers will play simply two video games in Los Angeles till Feb. 8.

The time for complaining about their circumstances is over, Lue stated earlier than tipoff, changed by profitable video games regardless of them. However as Tuesday illustrated, that will likely be simpler stated than finished.