LOS ANGELES — The Clippers couldn’t have been more discouraged Wednesday night.
They had a chance to make a statement. They also had a chance to get closer to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
They lost on both counts.
What could have been a significant victory turned into a 107-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center, dropping the Clippers 2 ½ games behind OKC with just three games to play in the regular season.
It essentially secures the third seed to the Clippers and a likely first-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
They’ll worry about that later. Their primary concern was sorting through a game that was never really close until the end.
"I guess the positive is that you can not play well and (almost) beat a team that really came in beat you," coach Doc Rivers said. "You could see it. They were really into the game early on. They came in to send a message."
The message was clear: In the postseason, every game will be played at an intense level. Better prepare now.
The Clippers didn’t really want to embrace their ability to come back, although they did. Down by as many as 17 points, they came within one, 94-93, when center DeAndre Jordan scored on a put-back dunk with 5 minutes 2 seconds left in the final quarter.
But they never got stops when they needed them, and they didn’t get rebounds when they needed them.
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"At this point, there’s no moral victories," forward Matt Barnes said. "We didn’t come out of the gate the right way and had to play catch-up in the fourth quarter, and it didn’t work."
The Clippers made 16 turnovers, gave up 42 points in the paint and shot just 42 percent from the field. All the way around, it was an uncharacteristic performance.
"We did everything we could not to win the game," Rivers said. "And we still had a chance to win the game."
Blake Griffin scored 30 points and Chris Paul added 25, but overcoming a big deficit was simply too much for them.
At this point, there’s no moral victories
-- Matt Barnes
"We’ve done that all season long," Paul said of the Clippers’ comeback. "We’re down, we know the game is never over. We had so many opportunities tonight to win.
"I mean, we had 16 turnovers — a lot of live-ball turnovers that led to layups. We didn’t play like us."
That was true. But they have three more games before the playoffs to get back on track.