Ice-cold Clippers win streak ends at 17 in Denver

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The Clippers were not going to win the next 50 games, there was going to be a day when the shots would just clang off the rim. There was going to be a night when nothing went right.

That night was Jan. 1 in Denver.

The Clippers had shot 48.3% last 15 games, and 41.9 percent from three in their last five games. But a combination of solid Nugget defense and just an ice-cold shooting night had the Clippers shooting 38.2 percent overall and 5-of-29 from three.

The result was the death of the win streak at 17 and a 92-78 Denver win.

And it doesn’t get any easier for the Clippers this week as they fly to Golden State for a Wednesday night game then host the Lakers on Friday. January is not going to be like the perfect December the Clippers had.

We should not shortchange Denver here. With Ty Lawson out (Achilles) Andre Miller stepped in and controlled the flow of the game, with 12 points and 12 assists on the night. Danilo Galliari had 17 to lead six Nuggets in double digits. They earned this win and outplayed the Clippers at both ends of the floor — Denver outhustled and outworked the Clippers all night long.

But that’s not really the story.

This was the Clippers that won every game for a month having an off night — they just missed a lot of open looks. Blake Griffin, who had a couple rough games before this one, was 4-of 11 on the night. Jamal Crawford 2-of-11. Willie Green 1-of-9. Really DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe were the only guys hitting shots, and that wasn’t enough.

It’s also the kind of loss the Clippers can just shrug off. They didn’t lose because of some fundamental flaw with the team, they just had a bad night against a good team. It’s the NBA, that happens. To everyone.

The Clippers can just shrug this off and move on.

They need to move on. At the end of the season this streak will not define them, how they do in the playoffs will. This streak has them 3.5 games ahead of the Warriors and 9 ahead of the Lakers in the Pacific, it gives them a real chance at a great playoff seed and an easier road to advance. That’s all good, but it’s not what they will remember wherever the season ends for them.

Shrug it off, move on.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.

Marcus Smart on Game 7: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’

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Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.

Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.

“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”

If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.

Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.

Report: Warriors’ Patrick McCaw cleared, will be available for Game 6

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We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.

McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.

However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.

Kevin Love in concussion protocol, listed as out for Game 7

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As if winning a Game 7 on the road against a younger, more athletic team that has not lost on its home court all playoffs was not difficult enough, things just got harder for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kevin Love has a concussion and is not expected to play in Game 7 on Sunday.

While it is technically possible for Love to clear out of the concussion protocol in 24 hours, it is highly unlikely. He would have to pass a rigorous physical test and have no concussion-related symptoms, something cleared by both the team doctor and a league-approved neurologist. This is something that tends to take days if not weeks to get over.

Love was injured just five minutes into Game 6. Love had set up position in the midpost and was setting a screen for George Hill, who was curling out to the arc. Jayson Tatum was trailing Hill and he banged heads with Love. It wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and did not return to the game.

LeBron James is going to have to carry even more load in Game 7, and now more pressure falls on George Hill (the bellwether for this Cavs team), J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and others to step up without Love there to space the floor and get buckets.