NEW ORLEANS -- The Los Angeles Clippers will never admit to playing down to the level of their competition.
They will shake their heads and say it's never about their opponents but themselves.
That's all well and good, but it's not hard to notice the Clippers sleepwalking since the 33-37 Denver Nuggets ended their 11-game winning streak last week. The Clippers followed that loss by squeaking past the 25-44 Detroit Pistons and 13-58 Milwaukee Bucks.
On Wednesday, it finally caught up with them as they lost to the 30-40 New Orleans Pelicans 98-96.
This was supposed to be a stretch of games where the Clippers not only won all four but tightened up their offense and defense heading into the final 10 games of the season. As it was, the Clippers went 2-2 against the four teams below .500 heading into a difficult road swing against Dallas and Houston.
How it happened: It was a back-and-forth game the Clippers never really could get control of as the Pelicans took a five-point lead in the first quarter and an eight-point lead in the second quarter. The Pelicans controlled the flow for much of the fourth quarter after the Clippers made a run in the third quarter. The Clippers had a chance to tie the score and win the game on separate occasions in the final seconds but missed both opportunities.
What it means: The Clippers have gone 2-2 in their past four games after winning 11 straight. Both losses came on the road, but considering their past four opponents had losing records, they were four games the Clippers should have won and needed to win to move up the standings. The Clippers still have a one-game lead on the Houston Rockets for the No. 3 playoff seeding in the Western Conference, and play the Rockets on Saturday in Houston. The Clippers started their five-game trip as the No. 3 seed but could finish as the No. 4 seed if they don't take care of business over the next four games.
Hits: Blake Griffin had 21 points and eight rebounds and has now scored at least 20 points in a franchise-record 30 straight games, which is the second-longest streak in the NBA this season. Griffin, however, missed a potential tying free throw near the end of the game. Jamal Crawford had 31 points off the bench and set a Clippers record for 3-pointers scored in a season but missed the potential winning shot at the buzzer.
Misses: Chris Paul had easily his worst shooting night of the season, going 0-for-12 from the field and scoring his first points of the game at the free throw line with 2:52 left in the third quarter. Paul finished with 2 points, 2 turnovers, 3 steals and 12 assists.
Stat of the game: The Pelicans dominated the points in the paint battle 56-28, and outrebounded the Clippers 53-40.
Up next: The Clippers travel to Dallas, where they will play the Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back Thursday. The Clippers have defeated the Mavericks in their previous two meetings this season. The last time the Clippers were in Dallas, they came from behind to win after Paul separated his right shoulder.