The Los Angeles Clippers will try to rebound from a confounding loss in the first half of a back-to-back set when they continue a four-game road swing on Thursday against the Miami Heat.
After opening its Eastern Conference tour on Monday with a 119-117 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles coughed up an 18-point, first-quarter lead on Wednesday and lost in overtime to the Orlando Magic, 116-111.
The Clippers went the final 3:22 of regulation without scoring against the team with the NBA’s worst record, giving up the last six points. Los Angeles again was outscored 6-0 down the stretch of overtime.
Since Nov. 19, Los Angeles is 5-5 and scored at least 114 points in each of the five wins. The Clippers scored 112 points or fewer in each of the five losses.
Los Angeles’ offensive woes were pronounced at Orlando.
No Clippers starter scored more than 16 points — a mark that Ivica Zubac and Nicolas Batum both reached — while reserve Terance Mann set the pace with 19 points. Paul George had 10 points in the game’s first five minutes, but he notched just one more point the rest of the night.
Kawhi Leonard returned to the lineup at the beginning of the road trip and hit the game-winning basket against the Hornets. Against the Magic, he finished with 14 points, playing under a time restriction as he adjusts to game speed.
Leonard shot 4-for-15 from the floor in 30 minutes. George also was limited, and he shot 3-for-12 in 33 minutes.
“They wanted to go in (at the end of overtime). Kawhi only had a minute left. We tried to save him,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said in his postgame press conference. “Amir (Coffey) and (Zubac) did a good job of holding it down.”
The usage of George and Leonard on the second leg of a back-to-back will be an important subplot entering the Thursday game.
The Clippers are not alone in their search for offensive consistency amid roster fluctuation.
Miami was held to double-digit scores in each of its last two games, both losses. Following a 101-93 road defeat against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, the Heat returned home the following night for a 116-96 blowout loss to the Detroit Pistons.
While the Miami offense has endured a rough patch, the team’s signature defensive tenacity has waned in recent games. The Tuesday loss marked the third time in the past four outings that the Heat surrendered at least 116 points.
“We’ve played hard enough to win some games,” guard Kyle Lowry said following Tuesday’s loss, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “But then we have some lapses where we kind of let go of that defensive rope, and I think that’s where we’re not doing our thing. We’re letting our offense control our defense.”
Miami played Tuesday without Jimmy Butler, the five-time All-Defensive honoree and six-time All-Star who just returned from a seven-game absence on Friday against Boston.
Butler was instrumental in a 120-116, overtime victory over the NBA-leading Celtics, posting 25 points and 15 rebounds. Butler finished with 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds in the loss at Memphis. His absence against Detroit was attributed to reconditioning, and he is listed as questionable for Thursday.
Miami’s Gabe Vincent (knee) will miss a second straight game on Thursday, while Dewayne Dedmon (foot) is questionable to return from a one-game absence.
–Field Level Media
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