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Clippers’ comeback can’t overcome Joel Embiid, 76ers


Doc Rivers and Tyronn Lue, the longtime NBA coach and his former player-turned-protégé-turned-Clippers successor, nonetheless speak usually.

Rivers characterised these conversations throughout the summer time as “fun.” Then the season arrived.

It isn’t the frequency of their talks that adjustments — it’s the tone they take.

“I don’t know if we talk, or we commiserate,” Rivers mentioned Tuesday, when his Philadelphia 76ers arrived at Arena 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 last Clippers season, in 2020: How do you construct a cohesive championship contender with out roster continuity? Just 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 16th 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 general, after their comeback from down 14 factors couldn’t be sustained in a 120-110 loss to Philadelphia.

“I’ve lived that life,” Rivers mentioned. “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.”

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On this, Lue and Rivers agree. One month in the past, Lue mentioned he needed to see his group play collectively for a 15-game stretch to know its true potential. Before tipoff Tuesday evening inside Arena, he mentioned he would even take a 10-game pattern dimension.

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

But there isn’t any assure it is going to ever occur because the roster stays a turnstile. As quickly as George returned Tuesday for his first sport in 12 days due to a hamstring situation, scoring 13 factors in 29 minutes, backup level guard John Wall departed for what the group estimated could be two weeks after straining an belly muscle in a Friday loss to Denver. Backup guard Luke Kennard, one of many NBA’s most respected shooters, watched for a fifth consecutive sport, his irritated calf encased in sweatpants once more.

Philadelphia 76ers heart Joel Embiid shoots throughout the first half in opposition to the Clippers on Tuesday at Arena.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Lue anticipated George to point out indicators of rust in his return. 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 heart Ivica Zubac, had by no means performed collectively — even counting earlier seasons.

So if it was notable George was again in any respect, it was additionally telling the best way he began his evening. In the final two video games that preceded his absence, George took 25 photographs however solely 4 contained in the paint and two on the rim. Against 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. His fourth shot was a jumper simply contained in the elbow. He took 11 photographs, and 6 have been within the paint, however with Joel Embiid controlling the paint himself, scoring 20 of his 41 factors there, the 76ers simply resisted the Clippers’ cost and revealed once more the group’s absence of a long-term reply at backup heart.

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After solely two first-quarter turnovers, the Clippers dedicated eight within the second quarter that Philadelphia was 13 factors, and so 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 subject purpose throughout one six-minute stretch of the ultimate 14 minutes. Leonard scored a team-high 27 factors, together with 14 within the third quarter, however none within the fourth.

Just because the Clippers hope that reinforcements are coming quickly, so is a remaining schedule ranked because the league’s second hardest. Starting with Wednesday’s sport in Salt Lake City, the Clippers will play simply two video games in Los Angeles till Feb. 8. They haven’t been a reliable highway group thus far, outscored on common whereas accruing a 10-12 document.

The time for complaining about their circumstances is over, Lue mentioned earlier than tipoff, changed by profitable video games despite them.


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