It seems counterintuitive to say that a team with a pair of superstars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George need help on offense.
The Los Angeles Clippers are that team, however. They lost three in a row and six of their last nine to close out the first half of the season, a slip that revealed holes in their struggling late-game attack. Los Angeles collapsed in the fourth quarter on Thursday, going 4.5 minutes without a basket on the home stretch in a 119-117 loss to the Washington Wizards.
The Clippers’ clutch numbers aren’t pretty. The NBA defines clutch time as the last five minutes of the game, with the score within five points. The Clippers have only played 45 such minutes this season, tied for fourth in the league, but they haven’t played well. They are last in overall field goal percentage and 26th in actual field goal percentage. They are 19th in offensive scoring and last in net scoring by a wide margin, which also concerns some defensive issues.
THE ESSENTIALS OF THE NBA: SCORES | SCHEDULE | RANKING
Leonard and George are excellent finishers. Leonard can dominate one-on-one clashes in the midrange, and George is a sniper when he spots around the perimeter. But they’re not as good as the enablers, and the offense can get bogged down when asked to do more.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Clippers needing a point guard, and they would explore the trading market for a veteran.
Ahead of Thursday’s game, Clippers coach Ty Lue revealed he recently met Leonard and George to discuss late-game difficulties. After similar issues contributed to their infamous collapse in last season’s playoffs, the Clippers’ execution in the fourth quarter could end under an even more intense microscope in the second half.
Here are four more things to know today in the NBA as the league heads towards the All-Star break:
Chaotic end in Memphis
The Milwaukee Bucks emerged with a 112-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies after a crazy final Thursday in which the lead changed hands five times in the last minute. Ja Morant put the Grizzlies ahead by one on a left layup with 7.3 seconds left. With no downtime, the Bucks quickly pushed the ball down the field and Jrue Holiday buried an 11-foot jumper from the left baseline with two seconds left. Desmond Bane’s long buzzer attempt 3 was short and Milwaukee survived.
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The silent star quietly reaches the cape
San Antonio Spurs veteran DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points Thursday to pass 17,000 for his career. He hit the mark in a loss late in the first quarter in Spurs’ 107-102 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Like all other accomplishments in his 12 seasons in the NBA, DeRozan eclipsed 17,000 with hardly any fanfare. DeRozan has been one of the league’s most stable players over the years, and only five players have scored more points than him since he was drafted in 2009: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook.
What to expect in the All-Star Game
The teams are ready for the all-star game after captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant drafted their teams on Thursday night. Usually one of the defining events on the NBA calendar, things will be calm this year, with all the festivities taking place on Sunday: the skills competition and 3-point shootout start at 5:30 pm ET; The All-Star Game begins at 8 p.m. ET, with the half-time slam dunk contest. The league has pledged nearly $ 3 million in donations from the events to groups supporting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Trading season is heating up
With the deadline just under three weeks, the trading season will really start to heat up after the All-Star break. Who needs to move the most? Which players are most likely to be treated? Our friends at HoopsHype follow all the latest news and buzz on their rumors page. Stay up to date on all of this before the March 25 deadline.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.