Clippers fall to 76ers and Joel Embiid, who scores 44 points

It was all there — the snappy passing, the elite shooting, the suffocating defense that filled the Clippers with believing they were championship caliber.

only one problem It was all here, too, for the Clippers in Friday’s 119-114 loss at the Wells Fargo Center — the insane inconsistency, offensive malaise and inability to piece together a full game, issues that have become a more common sight than glimpses are their full potential.

The Clippers led by as much as 20 points before halftime in what is perhaps the sharpest half of any game this season against a Philadelphia 76ers team that had had six straight wins, and instead turned their most impressive win into a particularly notable missed opportunity.

“We played the game right in the first half, we played downhill, we played with pace, we defended – that’s just who we are, no matter who we’re playing against,” said winger Paul George, who had 22 points scored “The challenge is to do that for an entire game and once again that’s where we’re lacking.

“We haven’t identified with that yet, I guess, persona for the team, a team that’s just going to finish you off.”

George said that after losing at Oklahoma City in the second week of the season. What does it take almost two months later to achieve this breakthrough?

“I’m not sure,” George said. “We only have dropouts.

“I think we just have to approach the two halves as zero-zero. Hopefully this shift will get us to play a little bit faster, a little bit better, a little bit more intense and better focused because I think whether we won the games or not, we’ve been in those positions a lot – too many times this season .”

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid scored 10 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter as “MVP” chants echoed during his free throws with 11 seconds left. Guard James Harden not only scored 20 points, but had a career-high 21 assists and added 11 rebounds. Overall, Harden was responsible for 67 points.

The 76ers' James Harden (left) and Joel Embiid celebrate after a second-half basket on December 23, 2022.

The 76ers’ James Harden (left) and Joel Embiid celebrate after a second-half goal. Harden had 20 points, 21 assists and 11 rebounds for a triple-double.

(Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

They were sometimes brutally effective. And the Clippers felt they could have been put away.

“We had our chances, we didn’t play smart the whole game,” said coach Tyronn Lue. “When we got up we made some crucial mistakes and some bad games.”

Friday was the 10th game since Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, and George returned from injuries after a joint win over Charlotte on December 5. During that span, the Clippers had won 6-3 and started Friday with a combination of the fourth-best defensive rating in the league and fourth-best three-point shooting with 39.9%.

Each was a building block of a first-half lead that grew to 20, with 3:37 remaining in the second quarter. Philadelphia took just three free throws before halftime, eight fewer than in the first half, and the Clippers put their emphasis on defending without fouls. It also only made four of its 14 three-pointers. Philadelphia turned over the ball just three times, but each time was followed by a Clippers basket — a layup by Norman Powell after a strip Embiid, a layup by George after tapping the ball from Harden.

John Wall was kept out after spraining his right ankle for the second time in as many weeks – he is hoping to play in Detroit on December 26 – but with ball handling handled by the committee, the Clippers’ bench unit looked so sharp like all seasons before. Reserves made nine of their 13 shots in the first half – an assist that led to every basket but one. Against a Sixers defense that ranked second in the league for limiting opponents’ attempts from deep, the Clippers made 10 of their 19 three-pointers in the first half.

But the final three minutes of the first half were ominous as their lead was cut to 12, reminiscent of the way Charlotte methodically reduced a 36-point deficit to 14 on Wednesday night, a rally that started in the third quarter was surpassed the Clippers by eight.

Clippers' Kawhi Leonard shoots over PJ Tucker of the 76ers on December 23, 2022.

The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, who scored 28 points, shoots over the 76ers’ PJ Tucker.

(Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

Two days later, Philadelphia won the third quarter by 12 points. Leonard saw no parallels between the losses – turnovers were the problem against Charlotte, transition defense was the problem on Friday, he said. But the shift in energy and focus looked the same to George.

When former Clippers coach Doc Rivers ran a second 76ers defender at George and Leonard, the Clippers froze. Fellow starters Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson, typical release valves when opponents blitz, shot a combined five of 15.

“We didn’t do well at playing smart and playing to our strengths when teams blitzed us,” said Lue.

A corner kick from Nicolas Batum gave the Clippers a one-point lead four minutes from time.

The Clippers never failed again.

“It’s good if we get it rolling to see how it really looks,” said Jackson, who had four points and was minus 13. “That’s reassuring, that stays with me for sure, but just the way we have those breaks sometimes, too long breaks – you’re going to have some during the game but we’ve got to find a way to nip them in the bud as soon as possible .” Clippers fall to 76ers and Joel Embiid, who scores 44 points

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