Clippers not interested in moral victories after falling short to Heat

A team that comes so close to pulling out a stirring comeback against the Miami Heat deserves some kind of credit. But the Clippers wanted none of that.

A team that comes so close to pulling out a stirring comeback against the Miami Heat deserves some kind of credit. But the Clippers wanted none of that.

LOS ANGELES -- There are no moral victories in the NBA.

Maybe, in the case of the Clippers, there should be. A team that comes so close to pulling out two stirring comebacks against the Miami Heat deserves some kind of credit.

But the Clippers wanted none of that Wednesday night. They had no interest in giving themselves a collective pat on the back for a job well done. They'd like to think they're the equal of the two-time defending NBA champions, not a team that looks up to the Heat.

As Clippers coach Doc Rivers said late in the evening, "They're good -- and we're good. We'd like to see them again. I think everybody in this room would be very happy with that. I would be."

That's the stuff of confidence, and although the Clippers lost to the Heat 116-112 at Staples Center, they showed the kind of resilience that will serve them well when the playoffs begin in April.

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But for now, they're exhausted and dissatisfied. They let Miami slip away twice, falling behind by 19 points in the second quarter, then closing to within five in the third. They let them slip away again, this time by 17 points in the third, before surging to within two points, 109-107, with 1 minutes 4 seconds left in regulation.

Neither time did they come back all the way. When Heat guard Ray Allen --€“ who played for Rivers in Boston --€“ sank a 3-pointer with 42.4 seconds left, it essentially crushed the Clippers' last hopes.

"There's no moral victories, but I loved the way our guys fought," forward Blake Griffin said. "I couldn't be more proud of how everybody stuck in there and gutted it out, twice really."

The Clippers were missing their backcourt. Chris Paul is still out with a separated right shoulder, and J.J. Redick was a late scratch because of a sore right hip. With his club so short-handed, Rivers relied on his starters to provide big minutes.

Four of them -- Griffin, Matt Barnes, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford -- played more than 40 minutes each. Griffin scored a season-high 43 points to go along with 15 rebounds, and Crawford had 31 points. But the Clippers made 20 turnovers, and against a deadly accurate team like the Heat, that's too many.

Miami shot 52.6 percent and made 13 3-pointers. LeBron James was phenomenal, as usual, finishing with 31 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. Six other Heat players scored in double figures.

The loss ended a seven-game home winning streak for the Clippers, who hadn't lost at Staples since Dec. 30.

But they were clearly in trouble from the start against a Heat team that set a frenetic pace and was almost relentless.

"They're a team that's been there, done that," Clippers forward Jared Dudley said. "They've been tested, and we're trying to get there."

They almost did, but getting close doesn't count.

"I kept telling them, 'You're within reach,' " Rivers said. "We put ourselves in this hole. You shouldn't be down as far as we were, but we were."

Then, he added this: "I liked our fight."

It wasn't much, but it was something worth taking away.