You can be forgiven for feeling as if you don't yet know the
Sixty-nine games into the season, amid flying fists and a sidelined superstar, the Clippers remain harder to read than a doctor's handwriting on a prescription slip.
Are they the team that won 25 of its first 34 games after
Are they the team that routinely crumbled in the final minutes of games against top teams, one memorable comeback against the
They certainly hope they're not the team that failed to show up last weekend. The Clippers couldn't beat the severely undermanned
It felt like more than a bad stretch that could be quickly dismissed after the Clippers lost for the fourth time in five games, particularly when shooting guard
"We've fought the whole year, and I don't think it's energy, I don't think it's fatigue," Redick said Sunday after the Clippers' 109-105 loss to the Pelicans. "It's just the spirit's not right."
The Clippers have always been comforted by the thought of rounding into form for the playoffs upon Griffin's return, but the calendar is no longer an ally. Only 13 regular-season games remain, meaning that even if Griffin were cleared to start practicing this week and begin serving his four-game suspension for punching team assistant equipment manager Matias Testi, he would be left with only a handful of games to prepare for the ones that really count.
Griffin's quadriceps injury has proven more bothersome than his broken hand because the quad has been a continuing source of discomfort nearly three months since he last played on Dec. 25. But Clippers Coach
Griffin's status isn't the only nagging concern.
The Clippers must also confront the possibility that they are mentally soft. They have not been dominant at home. They have lost fourth-quarter leads against the
At least in the playoffs the Clippers won't see the sort of teams they staggered against over the weekend.
Wait, what? Never mind.
The short-handed Grizzlies probably will be the Clippers' opponent in the first round barring a total collapse over the next three weeks. That means the Clippers will need to play with an edge against a team that will be playing without center
"We've got to stop playing with these teams that we should beat," Clippers guard Austin Rivers said. "I think sometimes our focus is less when we play a team like we did [Sunday]. We're not in any position to judge anybody."
It wasn't a good sign when the Pelicans'
Jordan said the Clippers' problems were all-encompassing after a five-game stretch in which they have given up an average of 110 points a game. "Play defense. Play better offense, share the ball," he said.
The second unit has struggled since Austin Rivers returned this month after being sidelined because of a broken hand, largely settling for jump shots and failing to defend consistently.
Of course, the entire roster seems to be going through something of an identity crisis.
"We should know who we are but obviously we're not [whole] yet," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. "We're working Austin back in and then we're going to have to work Blake back in. A little disjointed right now, but we'll figure it out. We'll figure out the kinks."
Doc Rivers and point guard
Maybe Paul had found the silver lining in an increasingly tarnished season.
"Luckily," Paul said, "right now we're still at the point where there's still another game."