LOS ANGELES -- Vinny Del Negro was in no mood to crack jokes after Los Angeles Clippers practices and games this week.
Chris Paul rushed through his answers with the same speed and precision he does opposing defenses.
And Blake Griffin watched and heard his teammates speak without cracking a joke, which has become his favorite pastime outside of dunking on opponents.
As much fun as the Clippers have been having, they haven't liked the way they have played of late. It's only natural for teams to go through lulls during the course of a season, but the Clippers don't think they are in any position to do that. They practiced with that in mind for two days heading into Saturday's 104-101 loss to the Orlando Magic, but it didn't seem to matter much. It was a game the Clippers looked to have in hand, going up by 13 and never trailing through the first 47 minutes before collapsing late. L.A. also saw its 13-game home winning streak come to an end.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Griffin steps up
Griffin scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out seven assists in the loss. It was one of Griffin's best games of the season, and it seemingly couldn't have come at a better time for the Clippers, who struggled to get much going in the second half. Unfortunately for the Clippers, not much seemed to go right for them late in the game. As aggressive as Griffin was, he didn't go to the free throw line a single time. Even though the Clippers had six players score in double digits, only Griffin and Jamal Crawford scored more than 10 points. Paul finished with 10 points and 16 assists and was the only Clippers starter to attempt a free throw, and he only attempted one. In fact, Grant Hill shot and made more free throws (two) in six minutes than did all the Clippers starters and four reserves combined.
Take a quick look at the box score and the final score doesn't make much sense. The Clippers shot a higher percentage from the field, had 12 more points in the paint, had more assists, had more fast-break points, had fewer turnovers, led by 13 points and didn't trail until the final seconds of the game. So how did the Clippers lose? Look no further than the disparity at the free throw line, where the Clippers only shot six, hitting all of them, while the Magic hit 15 of 19 attempts. The Magic also had a 22-7 advantage in second-chance points. "Embarrassing performance," Del Negro said. "We deserved to lose."
The Clippers finally welcomed Hill back when the 40-year-old forward entered the game to start the fourth quarter. As expected, Hill joined a second unit that now consists of Eric Bledsoe, Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Hill. The Clippers' bench, however, wasn't as potent as it usually is. The Clippers' reserves were outscored 37-33 by Orlando, and Hill wasn't much of a factor, missing his three shot attempts and finishing with just two points and two rebounds. "I thought our bench got outplayed," Del Negro said. "We got outplayed in every aspect."