Some recent Clippers losses were unexpected. This one didn't fit into that category.
They were playing the Golden State Warriors, once a fierce rival who might have developed something of a superiority complex based on the events of the last two seasons.
The Clippers kept things reasonably close for more than three quarters Wednesday night at Oracle Arena before the Warriors broke free after Klay Thompson and others continually slipped behind their defense for easy baskets.
Golden State's 114-98 victory represented a much better showing for the Clippers than their back-to-back clunkers last weekend but not nearly enough against a team that hasn't lost on its home court in the regular season since January … 2015.
The Clippers backcourt of J.J. Redick and Chris Paul combined to make eight of 29 shots, hardly a winning formula for a team that suffered its third consecutive loss, tying a season high. “It's going to be tough to win if me and J.J. can't throw it in the ocean,” said Paul, who finished with 13 points and eight assists.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had a strong bounce-back effort with 19 points and 20 rebounds but endured some rough moments in the third quarter. He airballed a wide-open jumper above the free-throw line with less than three seconds left on the shot clock and was visibly angered later in the quarter when play continued even though it sounded like a whistle had blown on a possible foul by the Warriors.
Thompson scored 33 points on 12-for-21 shooting, including a fourth-quarter fastbreak layup in which he accelerated as multiple Clippers oddly slowed. That was part of a series of blunders by the Clippers after they had pulled to within seven points with a little more than seven minutes left.
“I think we had five defensive mistakes in a row,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “That's the only time I got like heated because I don't mind if a team scores, you just can't have those breakdowns. In the playoffs it comes down to a single possession and we had too many single possessions where we made mistakes.”
Stephen Curry added 32 points for the Warriors (64-7), who stretched their NBA-record home winning streak to 51 games dating to last season.
Golden State has also won six consecutive games (and all four this season) in what was once a tightly contested series that included a Clippers victory in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Of course, the Warriors' NBA title last season and dominance through this season's first five months have changed the dynamic.
“I'm sure there's animosity,” Rivers said of the teams before the game, “but they're the champions and we're not, so I think everybody right now is the chasers.”
The last time these teams met here, in early November, they were both unbeaten and the Clippers were considered a viable contender for a top seeding in the Western Conference. Now they're just trying to hold onto home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
That was secured long ago by the Warriors, who are 33-0 at home this season and have kept the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' NBA record of 72 regular-season victories within reach.
Jordan appeared fully engaged after listless performances in losses to Memphis and New Orleans last weekend, his nine rebounds in the first quarter matching his total against the Pelicans and exceeding his total against the Grizzlies.
The Clippers starters, clearly bothered by their showing in those games, built an early lead that the reserves gave back early in the second quarter. The problem was on the defensive end, where their shortcomings led to visible frustration in the repeatedly raised arms of Rivers.
Not that stopping the Warriors is ever easy. Jordan stepped out to defend Curry about 30 feet from the basket late in the second quarter, Jordan's feet shuffling and arms active. It didn't matter. A couple of Curry jukes later, he freed himself for a 25-foot jumper that had the crowd roaring.
The noise rarely abated the rest of the way.