LOS ANGELES-That’s o-2. Coming off of NBA All-Star weekend, the Los Angeles Clippers had two big games looming in front of them: Golden State and San Antonio. It’s no secret that these two teams, statistically (and record-wise) are the top two honchos in the Western Conference.
The Clippers had an opportunity to really gauge themselves against the Warriors and Spurs coming off of their mid-season break. That opportunity turned into a squandered statement. Without guard Chris Paul in the lineup, the Clippers clicked on all cylinders in the first half against the Warriors, running up a 12-point lead in Oakland in the first game of a back-to-back test.
That didn’t go well with the Warriors scoring 50 points in the third quarter on their way to posting a 123-113 win. After a lengthy absence due an injury, Paul marked his return against the Spurs Friday night at Staples Center. Even with the bolstering of having Paul back in the fold, the Clippers couldn’t get it done against the Spurs, dropping a 105-97 defeat.
Playing the always rugged and disciplined Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back could be hard on any team. But you won’t find Clippers coach Doc Rivers buying into that as an excuse why his team lost. The Clippers lost this game because they got almost next to nothing from their bench in scoring and were outrebounded by the Spurs by a 51-36 margin.
From the opening tip, the Clippers played like it, scoring just 13 points in the first quarter. It was fairly obvious that the Clippers didn’t have that pep in their step against the Spurs.
Blake Griffin did. Griffin scored 29 points and pulled down 9 rebounds to give his team some kind of lift. Outside of Austin Rivers (23 points) and Paul (17 points), nobody else really bothered to show up for the Clippers.
If there is a glare to be fixed with the Clippers, one could peep into its bench. Most nights, the Clippers reserve players usually offer a steady dose scoring and all the other intangibles.
On the first game that guard Chris Paul returned after being out for a while with an injury, the Clippers’ second unit went strangely missing against the San Antonio Spurs in a home game at Staples Center.
Outside of Austin Rivers scoring 23 points (15 in the first half), microwave shooter Jamal Crawford (0 points), forward Marreese Speights (3 points) and backup point guard Raymond Felton (0 points), the Clippers’ usually capable unit came up flat against the Spurs.
It is extremely strange that Crawford, normally the hot-butter shooter coach Doc Rivers can rely on, didn’t score a single point in his 18 minutes of play.
The Spurs also held J.J. Redick under lock and key for the night, containing the shooting guard to just six points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field. If there is any consolation for the Clippers is the fact they know they can beat this team, having done so two other times during the regular season. But the loss have a deeper ramification that could be felt in the postseason.
The Clippers have failed to make their home court the home court. The defeat to the Spurs marks the ninth time the Clippers have lost at Staples Center this season. In comparison, the Warriors have dropped three defeats at home. Protecting the home floor is always a big deal. After their encounter with the Charlotte Hornets, the Clippers will have 13 home games remaining, including a date with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That’s 13 games they need to win in order to help their standing in the playoff race.