They have been in a rut, the Clippers seemingly unable to pull out of this downward spiral.
They took another step toward the abyss Monday night, dropping a tough 109-105 game to the Philadelphia 76ers before a sold-out crowd of 19,068 at Staples Center, many of whom were 76ers fans cheering on their impressive young guns.
The Clippers have lost six consecutive games, each one more painful than the last. The Clippers have lost eight of nine, the suffering etched on their faces every time.
“Every loss concerns you,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “But I like this team. We’ve just got to get right. But I want to win while we’re not right. Right now we’re not.”
The Clippers were in the game right up to the end, even taking a 101-100 lead on a free throw by Willie Reed with 45.1 seconds left.
But with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons causing the Clippers so many problems all game long, the 76ers had the final answer. With the Clippers’ defense concentrated on those two, Dario Saric found Robert Covington for a three-pointer for a 103-101 lead with 32.4 seconds left.
Lou Williams, who had 31 points, seven rebounds and six assists off the bench, tried to lift the Clippers with 16 fourth-quarter points. But he missed a three-pointer, leading to two free throws by Simmons for a 105-101 lead.
Austin Rivers, who missed 10 of his 13 shots, made a three-pointer with 11.9 seconds left to cut the lead to one. But it was too little too late, as the 76ers closed out the game by making four free throws.
Blake Griffin had 29 points, but he was just 10-for-25 shooting.
“We’re asking Lou and Blake and Austin to be great every night offensively,” Doc Rivers said. “Then if one of them is not — Austin struggled tonight with his shot making shots — our offense is pretty tough. We know that going into games. We’ve got to get more ball movement though, ’cause I think they are loading up on those three guys.”
Embiid was a load for the Clippers, scoring 32 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. He forced DeAndre Jordan to foul out with just two points and five rebounds.
Simmons also was a load, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds while showing why he’s a rookie of the year candidate.
“We did a couple of things that we shouldn’t have done covering them, up, pressuring them too high,” Doc Rivers said. “But, listen, [Simmons] is a hell of a player and Embiid just drew foul after foul. He got DJ and Willie into foul trouble. That tells you how good he is.”
Reed was called for a foul in the second quarter when he grabbed and pulled Embiid down, triggering a reaction between the two big men. Embiid got into Reed’s face and the two squared off before Reed was pulled away by his teammates and assistant coach Sam Cassell.
After a review by the referees, Reed was assessed a flagrant foul.
Embiid had been terrorizing the Clippers and letting them know about his exploits. Reed decided it was time to take a stand, for the Clippers to take a stand after going down by 14 points.
“We played hard as heck,” Doc Rivers said. “I think you can see that. We got down early and got back into the game.”