This one should hurt if you're the Clippers. In a game where L.A. played very well for about 44 minutes, they completely fell apart in the final four, and lost to the Mavericks in Dallas by a score of 100-98. The team led by 15 at the end of three quarters and by 10 with four minutes to go, but managed just two points the rest of the way.
The starters logged big minutes and put up some pretty good stat lines, but the play down the stretch -- especially offensively -- was simply too poor to overcome. Zach Randolph had his second solid game in a row, and finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Baron Davis had an okay night, chipping in 22 points and dishing out six assists. But he only made 10 of his 23 field goal attempts, and missed all six of his three-point tries. Davis is now 1-13 from downtown in his last two games; Mike Dunleavy may want to take a look at that and request that his point guard stop taking so many bad shots.
While we're making suggestions in Dunleavy's general direction, here's one he may want to consider: how about calling some plays in tight games down the stretch that don't result in the team taking long jumpers early in the shot clock while trying to protect a lead? And at the end of the game, when trailing by two and you have six seconds left, you should be able to get a better shot than a Baron Davis fade-away three-pointer at the buzzer. If that's going to be your play call, you might as well not even bother to call a time out to set one up in the first place.
All bitterness aside, this really was a disappointing loss for the team. For the second straight game they failed to protect a lead that should have been large enough for the victory, but a series of poor offensive sets left them with the opposite result. And the irony is this: since they've been so competitive lately and are just barely losing these games, the appearance is that Dunleavy is doing a brilliant job with his coaching. When in fact, the opposite is true. The team falls apart offensively with the game on the line, and on the final play the best they can seem to do is get off a long, desperate three-point attempt that has little or no chance of going in. The coaching is becoming a glaring problem for the Clippers in these tight games. But it's highly unlikely that the team's general manager will make a change anytime soon, considering the fact that he and the coach just happen to be the same person.