There was much more to boo about the Clippers than DeAndre Jordan. Their defense was suspect, and they couldn’t hold another double-digit lead. It all added up to a 118-108 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Jordan’s first appearance at American Airlines Center since he spurned the Mavericks last summer in free agency. Here are five takeaways from the Clippers’ third loss in their last four games:
1. Fans let DeAndre Jordan hear it, as expected: Jordan stepped to the free-throw line and was booed ... in pregame warm-ups, a sign this game was going to be a little different. Jordan also was jeered when he was the first player introduced, and then throughout the game, with several fans holding up signs mocking him. Jordan didn’t have a great game, finishing with 11 rebounds, nine points and one block. Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle got in a parting shot after the game when discussing Zaza Pachulia, the player the Mavericks plugged into their starting lineup at center after losing out on Jordan: “Our guy is a 90% free-throw shooter,” Carlisle said before pausing, “and we love him.” Said Dallas forward Chandler Parsons, referring to Jordan: “He’s not a priority to us, and by the looks of their team he’s not to them either.”
2. That’s two bad losses in three games for the Clippers: Forward Blake Griffin may have raised the first red flag of the season when he said that “some of us just have to have a sense of urgency,” never a good sign when the season isn’t even 10 games old. The Clippers lost to Houston while the Rockets were missing three front-line players (yes, the Clippers were missing Chris Paul) and then to a Mavericks team that was missing Parsons because he needed rest and had lost to the previously winless New Orleans Pelicans the night before playing the Clippers. The Clippers’ last three losses have all come in games when they have led by 10 points. “It’s frustrating to be up like that, to get good leads, start out well and string some stops together and then give it away and fight uphill the rest of the game,” Griffin said. “It’s not ideal.”
3. Starting halves was a problem for the Clippers: The Mavericks outscored them, 12-5, to start the game and 25-11 to start the third quarter, putting the Clippers in continual comeback mode. Paul took the blame for the Clippers’ slow start in the third quarter. “That’s on me,” Paul said. “They went to the post on maybe four or five possessions and I gave up buckets. We never really recovered.”
4. The Clippers’ first and second units still haven’t put together a complete game: It was the reserves’ turn to shine Wednesday, with three players scoring in double figures and Wesley Johnson earning a flying body bump from Jordan after making a three-pointer that was part of the Clippers’ 30-13 run that wiped out a 14-point deficit. Austin Rivers finished with 16 points, Jamal Crawford had 11 and Paul Pierce 10 to lead the Clippers’ bench. It was rougher going for the starters not named Griffin, who had 21 points and nine rebounds. Jordan was just OK by his standards, Lance Stephenson made a negligible impact and J.J. Redick had to leave midway through the second quarter after experiencing back spasms. Then there was Paul, who made only two of 11 shots to go with his 11 assists. “I would love for one game, the first unit and second unit to play well together,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s just amazing how it’s gone. I don’t look at plus-minus a lot, but when you look at it, the minus was on the starters and the plus was on the bench. The other night it’s flipped. Once we get that together, and some of that, we may have to mix guys up a little bit more or better, but we’ll figure that out.”
5. Something seems off about Paul: Maybe the strained groin and broken finger that Paul suffered in recent weeks are factoring into some shaky moments, though he would never admit it. “I’m all right,” he said after the game. Paul committed a very uncharacteristic turnover in the final minute when he drove into the paint and flung the ball across the court out of bounds, ending the Clippers’ comeback hopes. His assist-to-turnover ratio this season is an impressive 2.8-to-1, though that’s down significantly from the 4.4-to-1 ratio he posted last season. His eight assists per game are on pace to be his fewest since his rookie season.