The Los Angeles Clippers knew this trip would not be easy. After an overtime loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, the Clippers gathered together in their New York hotel for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night and braced themselves for their first back-to-back on the road this season.
Games against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday and the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday would give a better indication of how good a road team the Clippers were after they spent all but one day of the first three weeks of the season at home. After an 86-76 loss to the Nets on Friday night, it's clear the Clippers are still a work in progress, at least on the road. The Clippers will now need to win at Atlanta on Saturday just to salvage a 2-2 road trip. "You got to be able to do it on the road," Chris Paul told reporters after the game. "Good teams can. Good teams execute on the road down the stretch. Everybody knows what their role is and we got to do better and that starts with me."
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Paul and Griffin disappear
Paul took the blame for the Clippers' 117-111 overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday. He finished the game hitting just 2-of-14 shots and missed the potential game-winner on the last play of regulation. Paul returned strong through the first three quarters in Brooklyn, putting up 14 points and eight assists, but he disappeared in the fourth quarter. He didn't score a single point in the final period, going 0-for-3, and committing two turnovers. Not only was he a non-factor on offense, but he also fouled out, committing six fouls in less than six minutes in the fourth quarter.
Not only was it a dreadful second half for Paul, but also a forgettable one for Blake Griffin, who was also held scoreless in the final period. In fact, Griffin didn't even attempt a shot in the fourth quarter and attempted only three shots in the second half. For the first time in 16 games, the Clippers lost a game in which they led at the half, and the disappearance of Griffin and Paul were big reasons for that.
Bench falls off
It's pretty clear the Clippers this season will only be as good as their bench, and on Friday their normally consistent bench struggled. The Clippers' bench scored a season-low 24 points. Their previous low was 34 points in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month. Previously this season, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has kept his second unit in the game for more than the first half of the fourth quarter before handing the game off to the starters to close it out. That wasn't the case Friday as Del Negro went to the bench with the score tied, 63-63, but had to go back to his starters after the Clippers fell behind by five points. After combining for 39 points against Oklahoma City, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes had only 14 points against Brooklyn. Eric Bledsoe finished with only six points.
It's one thing when the Clippers' starters struggle, but when the bench struggles on the same night, the team is left scoring just 76 points, which is a season-low by 13 points.
Bad turnovers and bad misses
One of the areas Del Negro continues to work with his team on is turnovers but that extra work wasn't evident Friday as the Clippers finished with 20 turnovers that led to 19 points for the Nets. The Clippers also shot just 40.3 percent from the field. They were particularly bad in both areas in the fourth quarter, finishing with eight turnovers and shooting just 35.7 percent. Every time it looked as if the Clippers might make a late comeback, they either turned the ball over or missed an easy basket.
"The turnovers really hurt us tonight," Del Negro told reporters after the game. "We have to do a better job of controlling that. We had 20 turnovers tonight and every time we got a stop, we turned it over on the break or stepped out of bounds or just not executing the way we need to. We also didn't shoot the ball the way we needed to. We missed a lot of easy shots."