LOS ANGELES -- After the struggling LA Clippers dropped their fourth straight game, veterans like Marcus Morris Sr. sounded off on the team's need to start sacrificing and picking up their intensity and effort.
"Right now, I think we are just showing up," said Morris, whose Clippers have trailed by 22 or more points in three of their past four losses. "And thinking we can win because of the talent we have, because of all the things we have on this team. That's just not the case."
Morris added: "We haven't really built our identity yet, and to be trying to fight for a championship... because it's championship or bust, and to be looking for that and beholden ourselves to that, we shouldn't be getting outplayed.
"... It doesn't have anything to do with skill. We are getting outplayed. They are playing harder."
Despite winning their first two games of the season, the Clippers (2-4) have been out of sync. Leonard played in two of the first three games but was coming off the bench and logging limited minutes as he makes his way back after missing all of last season with a torn right ACL. Leonard experienced tightness in his right knee at the morning shootaround Tuesday and has been held out since. Leonard has already been ruled out for Monday's game against the Houston Rockets.
With John Wall having his minutes monitored, Morris missing two games last week to personal reasons and Paul George struggling in part due to a non-COVID illness that kept him out of one game last week, the Clippers have not looked like the championship contenders they are supposed to be.
George said he has to, and will, turn things around personally.
"We just got to raise the intensity," said George, who missed 14 of 19 shots and finished with 14 points. " ... It comes down to identity, who we're gonna be, and with that we've got to raise the intensity on both sides. It starts with me. I was poor tonight, been poor the past couple games. I'll get it together. I'm committed to my work, I'm committed to this team succeeding. It starts with me, I got to get better, I got to do better."
Outside of a 40-point explosion in a win over the Sacramento Kings in the second game of the season, George has averaged 13.7 points and is shooting just 17-of-54 combined in his other four games.
But the Clippers' woes are much bigger than George's offensive struggles. They have averaged just 97.5 points in their four losses and have lost those games by 17, 14, eight and 21, respectively.
The Clippers have shot under 35% in the losses to Phoenix, twice to Oklahoma City and New Orleans -- matching their longest such streak over the past two seasons. The other time they shot this poorly this long was also early in a season during the first four games at the start of 2021-22 according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
"We got to be more focused and more locked into what the ... to what we are doing," a frustrated Ty Lue said.
" ... It is not just on the players, myself included," the coach added. "If we are not going to be able to do things that we are supposed to do, then we got to do something different. So that lies on me. But we all got to be better -- look in the mirror and not out the window."
Lue later said "we just can't score the basketball. To be 27th in the league in scoring, that's terrible with all the talent that we have."
Even with Leonard out, the Clippers constructed one of the deepest rosters in the NBA to withstand injuries and guys on restrictions. So far, they have a four-game slide to show for it.
"We have to sacrifice," said Morris, who had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. "We have to put our body over our mind. Show everybody else it's not about scoring, it's not about points, it's not about stats. It's about winning the game. It's no knock on the team, but there is no way we should be losing to these teams -- regardless of how many games we've played, or who's out. There's no excuse."
Wall said he spoke up to the team after the latest loss in an effort to snap the Clippers out of their funk.
"We have so much of a talented team where you look on paper, we look so great," said Wall, who thinks he likely will be held out of the Rockets game due to it being a back-to-back. "But like I was telling the guys in the locker room, that don't mean nothing. Kinda looks like it was when I was in college at Kentucky. We were everybody's Super Bowl. Everybody gets up for us. That's what teams are doing now. They know they come out and hit us first, be more aggressive, they'll be the team that wins.
"The last four games, we've been down almost 20 like every game. We just gotta find a way to tuck our pride and just look ourselves in the mirror, even though it's still early, and figure out what we could do best for this team, each individual."