For a team that has been surging, at least before Sunday night’s loss to the Bulls halted their winning streak at seven games, the Clippers have developed an odd quirk. They are one of the worst first-quarter teams in the NBA this season, posting an average plus/minus of minus-3.2 in the opening quarter, according to NBA.com/stats.
The Clippers have been outscored by 56 points in the first quarter and have lost nine of the 13 first quarters they have played. All this would be normal for a bottom-feeder, but this is a team that is 8-5 and sees itself as a potential contender. Even during the winning streak, the Clippers trailed after the first period five times, and lost the first quarter by, cumulatively, 39 points.
Coach Ty Lue, before the Clippers went down by 13 points in the first quarter against Chicago, actually warned about that.
“We got to keep challenging those guys not to get behind,” Lue said before the game on Sunday, per The Athletic. “Because when you get behind, the rotations kind of get mixed up. Guys have to play more minutes. So it’s just kind of tough to keep climbing yourselves out of holes like that, so we got to have better starts and do a better job with that. And I think we will going forward.”
Lue: ‘Our Guys Got Tired’
Of course, the good news about the Clippers’ knack for getting down early on in games is that they also have pretty special resilience, the ability to absorb an early blow and plow forward, and even win games. It is easy to focus on the negative that comes to start the game but consider what happens from there: the Clippers are the best second-quarter team in the NBA (plus-4.2), the fifth-best third-quarter team (plsu-3.1) and the ninth-best fourth-quarter team (plus-1.2).
The downside, though, is that the Clippers have to lean more on the team’s starters when making a comeback from an early deficit. That’s what happened on Sunday, when Lue openly lamented playing star Paul George a season-high 41:19 against Chicago, a game that came on the second night of a back-to-back.
“We just lost,” Lue said. “Our guys got tired, it thought it was fatigue. I messed up I played them too many minutes. When you’re fatigued, you’re not going to attack the basket, you’re not going to get downhill. Took some tough shots, 3s, didn’t get inside the paint. Like I said, our guys were tired, you could see that, and that was on me. So, whatever. Start a new streak.”
Bledsoe Continues to Shine for Clippers
One positive from the Bulls loss was the continued hot streak of guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a solid showing for the third consecutive game after a brutal start to the year. Bledsoe shot 7-for-14 from the field and grabbed six rebounds. Bledsoe was one of few Clippers who shot with accuracy on the night—outside of him, the rest of the team went 22-for-67 shooting, or 32.8%.
Over his last four games, Bledsoe is averaging 18.7 points on 5.0 assists and 4.7 rebounds, making 52.4% of his shots and 37.5% of his 3-pointers.