It’s official: The Clippers are struggling. A 118-104 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena represented their fourth loss in five games and raised all sorts of issues about a team that hasn’t looked like much of a title contender in the season’s early going. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Blake Griffin’s ejection compounded a bad situation: The Clippers were already missing guards Chris Paul (strained right groin) and J.J. Redick (back spasms) when Griffin received his second technical foul late in the second quarter. That erased a trio that entered the game averaging a combined 58.1 points, significantly reducing the Clippers’ offensive firepower. Coach Doc Rivers said his team should have just shrugged. “We’ve just got to keep playing,” Rivers said. “Like I told our guys, ‘You can’t feel sorry for yourselves.’ I was disappointed because I thought we could have still won the game with three guys out. It would have been a great win for us, but we just didn’t hang in there.”
2. The Clippers’ reputation as complainers may have been a factor: The Clippers have had several players among the league leaders in technical fouls in recent years, and picked up three technicals as recently as Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks. Rivers has repeatedly talked about needing to do a better job of maintaining composure -- himself included -- but the Clippers continually put themselves in position for technical difficulties with their glares, unmistakable body language and jabbering. Rivers declined to discuss whether the Clippers’ reputation as whiners was hurting them. “You can go wherever you want,” Rivers said. “I’m not getting into that.”
3. Manpower wasn’t the only thing the Clippers were missing: Guard Austin Rivers repeatedly said the Clippers possessed a “bad spirit” throughout the game, failing to compete at a level that would give them a chance to win. “We have to put a better effort than that, man,” Rivers said. “We play the Phoenix Suns -- a playoff team -- in a back-to-back, just had a tough loss [against Dallas]. We’re on a road trip and we’re supposed to come away with wins and we just did all this and came home with nothing.”
4. Paul and Redick probably won’t return against Detroit on Saturday: Doc Rivers said he’ll likely also hold the guards out against the Pistons. “Somene’s going to have to do a heck of a convincing job to change that,” he said. Holding Paul out against the Pistons would give him a week off before the Clippers' next game on Nov. 19 against Golden State. "I just looked at the schedule and made the call," Rivers said. "It may not be a great call for him or our team, but I think it’s the right thing to do for him and so we’re just going to take it."
5. The slumping Clippers aren’t in terrible shape in the Western Conference standings. Yes, they’re already 4 1/2 games behind unbeaten Golden State, but the teams below the Warriors are tightly bunched. The Clippers entered Friday alone in fourth place in the West, with the six teams immediately below them all holding .500 records. The Clippers will need to beat the Pistons to avoid falling to that level. “We’re not in any position to sleep on anybody,” Austin Rivers said. “We have not won any championship, we have not done anything of that sort, so who are we to sleep on anyone? At the end of the day, we’ve got to start putting something together here. We have to put like two or three or four [wins] in a row, five in a row.”
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