LOS ANGELES -- These were the kind of games the Los Angeles Clippers thought they were beyond as a team. Even after jumping out to an 8-2 record to start the season and being touted as one of the best teams in the NBA, they continued to point back at their two home losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors at the beginning of the season.
If they were going to be taken seriously as a championship contender, they couldn’t lose at home to below .500 teams with little to no playoff prospects.
Well, it seems this team has some work to do before they can be taken seriously as championship caliber.
Not only have the Clippers lost four straight games since their 8-2 start, but Monday’s 105-98 loss to a 3-9 New Orleans Hornets team playing without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon has to be classified as their worst loss of the season. Not only were the Hornets the worst team in the Western Conference standings, the Clippers let New Orleans have its way with them inside (scoring 30 points in the paint) and outside (hitting 15 three-pointers).
Here are three takeaways from the game:
After a frustrating road trip for Blake Griffin, his first game back home didn’t go much better. Not only did Griffin go scoreless in the first half, he finished the game hitting only 1-of-9 shots, the lone basket being a lob dunk late in the third quarter. He missed an easy layup late in the game that would have brought the Clippers to within two possessions, then fouled out of the game. He had more fouls (six) than he did points (four) and was a total non-factor as the Clippers struggled to stay in the game. His effort represented the lowest point and field goal totals in Griffin's career. Not only did Griffin not show up, his frontcourt teammate DeAndre Jordan was also a no-show, finishing with just three points and a single rebound. You can almost forgive Jordan for having three points if he is active in other areas, but finishing with only one rebound, even if he only played 15 minutes, is not acceptable.
There are many things the Clippers hang their hat on as a team, but 3-point shooting isn’t necessarily one of them and probably shouldn't be for a team as athletic and good around the basket. But on Monday night the Clippers matched the Hornets shot for shot from the outside. The Clippers hit 17-of-36 from beyond the arc, compared to 15-of-25 by the Hornets. You can understand the Hornets relying on the deep ball, but there was no need for the Clippers to ignore their game plan (which I’m sure wasn’t attempting a staggering 37 three-pointers) and get into a shootout with New Orleans. While Caron Butler was 12-of-24 for the game and 9-of-15 from downtown, Griffin and Jordan were a combined 2-of-13 from the field. That’s rarely a recipe for success.
The woes for the normally consistent Clippers second unit continued at home, as only one player scored at least 10 points and the reserves finished with 28 total points. They were outscored by the Hornets’ bench, which finished with 44 points and had two players -- Austin Rivers and Jason Smith -- who combined for 31 points. Jamal Crawford, who had been on a tear in averaging more than 20 points per game during the Clippers’ 8-2 start, finished with only 10 points. He hasn’t scored more than 20 points since Nov. 17 and hasn’t tallied more than 13 in his last three games.