It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, it was the worst of nearly everything for the Clippers during a 108-103 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans didn’t have All-Star forward Anthony Davis, the Clippers got shooting guard J.J. Redick back from a one-game absence and none of it seemed to matter on a night the Clippers were dominated by an undermanned team. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Will the real Clippers please stand up? They entered the game with the momentum of a 747 jumbo jet at cruising altitude, having won six consecutive games, the most recent three in comeback fashion. They exited looking like a team with no chance at contending for an NBA title after getting completely outplayed by a fringe playoff team. The Clippers had recently made a habit of winning games in which they played poorly, getting late defensive stops or a breakthrough from a variety of players. Not this time. “We couldn’t get stops when we needed to,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “They got in the lane, they were comfortable. It’s a bad loss for us.”
2. The Clippers got pushed around … by whom? His name is Alexis Ajinca, and there is no shame in never having heard of the obscure Frenchman. He is the Pelicans' backup center and he came up huge with Davis sidelined by a strained groin, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds off the bench while making a variety of impressive moves around Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Ajinca also made the kind of hustle plays that the Clippers sorely lacked, fighting for rebounds and loose balls.
3. Paul nearly brought the Clippers all the way back. He scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, including seven straight at one point to spark a 12-0 Clippers run, but he missed a three-pointer that could have given his team the lead and the Pelicans pulled away. Paul realized the Clippers’ problems started long before then. “It’s bad, obviously,” Paul said. “We didn’t come in here with plans to lose. We came out and were kind of flat. We weren’t making shots and weren’t getting stops and ultimately it caught up with us.”
4. Spencer Hawes went scoreless for a second consecutive game. It’s not quite a lost season for the backup center-forward, but it’s getting close. The Clippers’ biggest acquisition of the summer continues to make a negligible impact, which was particularly vexing Friday because Ryan Anderson, his Pelicans counterpart with a similar skill set, made five three-pointers on the way to 24 points. Hawes has failed to score in back-to-back games for only the fourth time in his career and the first since March of his rookie season.
5. The Grammy Awards trip is about to get a lot tougher. The Clippers will play defending NBA champion San Antonio on Saturday night, though they are 8-3 in the second game of back-to-back situations, including 5-2 on the road. Then comes what should be a breather against Brooklyn on Monday before games against probable playoff teams Cleveland on Thursday, Toronto on Friday, Oklahoma City on Sunday and Dallas on Monday. The looming schedule made the loss to the Pelicans all the more difficult. “You can’t have these type of games when you’re about to go four in five,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “The rest of the teams from here on out I think are playoff teams with the exception of Brooklyn, so we have to be better.”