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Clippers view defensive issues as ‘easy fix’ after double-overtime loss

LOS ANGELES — Scoring 175 points was entertaining certainly, great theater and even “crazy” as Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

But to lose Friday night’s high-scoring game exposed a flawed defense that cost the Clippers a chance to gain ground in the Western Conference standings. And with just 20 regular-season games left to integrate four new players, that’s a heavy expense.

The Clippers squandered several chances to close out the double-overtime game, first in regulation and again in both overtime periods and lost, 176-175, to the Sacramento Kings because they couldn’t come up with timely stops.

The Kings, who are playing some of their best basketball in a decade, used a 22-8 run to close out regulation, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the final 4:25. Confusion on defense by the Clippers allowed Malik Monk to score a 3-pointer off an assist from De’Aaron Fox on the final play of the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.

“I think it was just a little miscommunication,” Clippers All-Star Paul George said. “He (Monk) got a great look for a great 3-point shooter and a guy that was hot all night, and you can’t give that up.”

Monk scored a career-high 45 points, while Fox added 42 points and 12 assists.

In the first overtime, the Clippers held a 162-156 lead with three minutes left, but the Kings didn’t stop finding open spots and went on an 8-2 run to force another overtime period.

The Clippers again led by six points in the second overtime as Russell Westbrook found his new teammates with timely passes and Norman Powell’s free throws gave them a 175-169 lead with 1:57 left to play.

In those two minutes, though, the Clippers turned the ball over two more times, committed two more fouls and allowed the Kings to score the final seven points to close out the second-highest scoring game in NBA history.

In total, the Clippers allowed 42 points off 25 turnovers, gave up 88 points in the paint and stood around as the Kings scored 41 fast-break points.

“They just kept applying pressure,” George said. “They played desperate those last moments, got them back in the game and that’s just Sacramento. They play at a high intensity; they play fast-paced and they’re going to keep coming at you. They play Sacramento ball.”

“We did some good things and just defensively, I just thought we had a lot of breakdowns,” Lue said, singling out Fox’s attacking style in leading the Kings’ offense.

He said the way the Kings attacked the basket, got to the free-throw line and made plays that put pressure on their defense.

“Defensively, we just got to be better,” Lue said.

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He said for starters, the team needs to get back quicker on defense, and secondly, recognize the point of attack that would help stave off early breakdowns that have caused them to give up 3-pointers and layups because they need to help on defense.

George sees the team’s defensive problems as an “easy pick up for us or an easy fix for us just to get back. … That’s what every team teaches and preaches. So that alone I think could have kept us and put us in position to win tonight.

“And taking care of the ball, I mean not every team is going to put 175 up. But you know, to that, that’s their M.O., that’s how they play. They get up, they play fast, they get possessions quick. We just got to be better on the game plan.”

INJURY REPORT

Center Ivica Zubac (right calf strain) will miss his second consecutive game on Sunday night in Denver. Mason Plumlee will again start in his place.

CLIPPERS AT NUGGETS

When: Sunday, 7 p.m. PT

Where: Ball Arena, Denver

TV/radio: Bally Sports SoCal, ESPN, 570 AM

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