The box score at halftime Saturday read like a recipe for disaster.
The Clippers trailed Brooklyn by four points on 40% shooting — and their reserves were even worse, shooting a mere 26% — with 10 turnovers at Crypto.com Arena.
It was the kind of performance that early returns suggested should have ended in a loss. During the season’s up-and-down first two weeks, it did, in fact: The Clippers entered Saturday 1-3 when shooting worse than 45%, and 0-2 when committing double-digit turnovers before halftime.
That was before the Clippers went 6 minutes and 25 seconds between made field goals in the third quarter — a lifetime for an offense that had recently found its rhythm. Yet during that run, their three-point lead evaporated into only a four-point hole, minimal damage considering the drought.
Even with star wing Paul George resting to start the fourth quarter, and Brooklyn’s shooting duo of Seth Curry and Patty Mills combining for three three-pointers in less than three minutes during a key fourth-quarter stretch, the Clippers entered a timeout down only 89-86, weathering the barrage with a John Wall three-pointer and layups by Ivica Zubac and Norman Powell.
If there was ever an illustration of how much tougher the Clippers had grown during their turnaround, this was it, an early-afternoon tipoff turning a bad start into a sturdy win.
Instead, the bottom fell out, sending the Clippers to 7-6 on the season with a 110-95 loss to the Nets.
Brooklyn, rejuvenated under recently promoted coach Jacque Vaughn, scored 18 of the game’s next 20 points over the course of 4 minutes 33 seconds as their three-pointers fell and the Clippers’ clanked.
The Clippers made two of eight three-pointers in the fourth quarter, the Nets six of 10.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points and Curry finished with 22 for Brooklyn, whileGeorge scored 17 to lead the Clippers, ending his recent hot streak on a day he made five of 21 shots. George entered Saturday averaging 30.7 points and 43% three-point shooting in six previous games.
Saturday marked the fifth consecutive absence for Brooklyn point guard Kyrie Irving, the minimum amount he could miss under his team-issued suspension stemming from linking on social media to a documentary featuring antisemitic tropes and his failure to, as the team said, “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.” He will miss a sixth game Sunday, as well, when Brooklyn faces the Lakers, Vaughn said.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue coached Irving at his career’s undisputed peak, when Irving’s last-minute three-pointer helped claim the 2016 NBA championship for Cleveland.
“I’ve always said offensively, he has no weaknesses,” Lue said before tipoff. “He made my job a lot easier, for sure.”
Now with Irving’s career’s reaching its undisputed low point, the All-Star guard reportedly required to meet a laundry list of conditions before being considered for reinstatement — he met with commissioner Adam Silver and Nets owner Joe Tsai in recent days — Lue said the Irving he knew in Cleveland had “leadership qualities” that were quickly overshadowed once LeBron James returned as a free agent in 2014.
“He really didn’t have that chance to take that step because Bron was there for four years and Kyrie was still kind of young,” Lue said.