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Clippers fall, 123-107, to Toronto for third consecutive loss

Short-handed Clippers lose three straight games for the first time this season

It finally happened, 20 months and 133 games into Doc Rivers' tenure with the Clippers.

His team lost a third consecutive game in the regular season.

It seemed unlikely when the Clippers held a 20-point lead over the Toronto Raptors in the first quarter Friday night at Air Canada Centre. Then it was as if those basketball gods Rivers likes to invoke decided to intervene.

The Clippers stopped playing defense and their short-handed roster couldn't compete over the final three quarters of a 123-107 setback that raised serious doubts about whether their losing streak would end any time soon.

"I told the guys, 'People aren't feeling sorry for us,' " Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. " 'They see blood in the water, they're going to try to kill us.' "

The Raptors bludgeoned the Clippers with dribble penetration and 13 three-pointers on the way to completing a 36-point turnaround. Forward DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and reserve b made all seven of his shots on the way to 16 points.

The Clippers were missing J.J. Redick (back spasms) and Hedo Turkoglu (stomach virus) and had to endure a brief stretch during the second half without center DeAndre Jordan, who was also dealing with a stomach virus.

An air of queasiness hung in the locker room after the Clippers fell to 2-4 on their eight-game Grammy Awards trip, which could easily get worse Sunday when they return to the scene of their epic Game 5 collapse against Oklahoma City in last season's Western Conference semifinals.

Not that Rivers seemed ready to make any sort of concession speech 51 games into the season.

"I don't panic. I don't go game to game," he said. "If we had won five in a row, I wouldn't think any different either."

Rivers tried a new approach to a second consecutive full game without Redick, inserting son Austin into the starting lineup. It worked over the game's first 9 1/2 minutes as the Clippers played lockdown defense and established the quick pace they wanted on the way to a 30-10 lead.

Then something unexpected happened.

"After that," Rivers said, "we never defended again. Our pick-and-roll coverage was horrendous."

Clippers forward Blake Griffin had an all-around strong game with 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds but didn't get enough offensive support besides point guard Chris Paul's 22 points. Shooting guard Jamal Crawford scored 20 points but made only four of 13 shots, extending his monthlong slump.

Toronto pulled to within two points by halftime and took a permanent lead early in the third quarter on Kyle Lowry's running layup. The Raptors would go ahead by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter before Rivers pulled his starters early for a second consecutive game.

It was just the latest horrible showing for the Clippers (33-18) against the top teams from the Eastern Conference. The Clippers are 0-8 against the top five teams in the East.

Of course, that's not the primary focus of a team that needs to first get through the West. At this point, the Clippers would be happy just to make it back home next week without fully unraveling.

"We can win two games and go .500 on this trip," Rivers said. "There's a lot of life still left."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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