LOS ANGELES — It was a game of inches as Blake Griffin’s shot bounced off the rim and fell short at the buzzer and the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 97-96 Wednesday at the STAPLES Center.
The Clippers (40-28) began the day two and a half games behind the Utah Jazz in the battle for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. However, Wednesday’s loss to Milwaukee puts them much closer to the Memphis Grizzlies, who trail the Clippers by two games in seventh place.
The Clippers looked lethargic in the fourth quarter, showing no real fire on the court until the closing minutes.
“We couldn’t get the string of stops you need to be a great team,” said a disappointed Doc Rivers. “Either we didn’t rotate, or they made a good shot, or we fouled, we just couldn’t get multiple stops. We got a couple of good stops that cut the lead but I just thought we failed to get the big stops tonight.”
From Milwaukee’s perspective, they got the stop they needed at the right time.
“We anticipated the switch because they had been switching the whole game,” said Rivers. “We got [Griffin] the ball right in the middle of the floor with a point guard on him. Matthew Dellavedova got into his legs and the next guy challenged his shot.”
Dellavedova, who came off the bench, played a key role on the offensive end as well in the deciding fourth quarter. Dellavedova scored eight points in the closing quarter, including two big threes that threw cooled off Clipper rallies.
“I think [Dellavedova] is setting good screens, so when I see Chris Paul in front of me, I know Delly is wide open,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I think he did a great job of separating, and he was able to get his feet set and knock them down.”
Dellavedova, who scored 12 points, was one of three Bucks reserve bench players that scored in double figures. If you compare the plus/minus in the box scores, there is a huge difference between the two squads in this game.
Clippers need to find a way to be productive when their starters aren’t on the floor. Aside from the 14 points Jamal Crawford scored, the bench wasn’t effective at all. The reserve players gave back the good equity the starters built every time the unit was on the court.
Milwaukee, on the other hand, benefit from a balanced scoring attack. They featured eight players with 20 or more minutes of playing time and had six players who scored in double figures.
“When we’re unselfish and we make the extra pass, good things happen,” said Jason Kidd after the game. “We didn’t put a lot of minutes on Khris [Middleton] tonight, which is a bonus… Again, everybody who pitched in, who played, it was a big team win on the road.”
Antetokounmpo had 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in only 28 minutes. Bucks rookie point guard Malcom Brogdon is making a run at Rookie of the Year; he scored 11 points and dished out five assists.
Milwaukee (33-34) began the day with slim half game lead over Miami for the eight and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the win puts them in the seventh spot as they try to avoid a first round matchup against Cleveland.
After the game Clippers coach Doc Rivers announced that Deandre Jordan and Griffin would not be traveling with the team to Denver to play in Thursday night’s game.