There was a cut-and-paste feel to the Clippers’ 109-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday at the Smoothie King Center. The Clippers were going against a largely no-name team only to look like a bunch of nobodies themselves. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. It was another clunker against a team missing half its roster. The Clippers clearly didn’t learn from their previous game against the Memphis Grizzlies, who were missing Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. So they were in trouble once New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson joined Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans on the sideline. The Clippers were outclassed Sunday by Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik and Luke Babbitt, none of whom would start for most NBA teams. Asik outrebounded the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, 14-9. Jordan said the Clippers’ problems were all-encompassing. “Play defense. Play better offense, share the ball,” he said. The Clippers have given up an average of 110 points in their last five games and shooting guard J.J. Redick acknowledged they weren’t playing with the right spirit. There was only one possible upside. “Luckily,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said, “right now we’re still at the point where there’s still another game.”
2. At least the Clippers won’t see these sorts of teams in the playoffs. Wait, what? Never mind. The short-handed Grizzlies are likely to be the Clippers’ opponent in the first round barring a collapse over the next three weeks. That means the Clippers will need to adjust their mind-set against a team that will be missing key players. “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 tonight. We’re not in any position to judge anybody.” Said Paul: “Obviously these games we should have won, but we’re going to keep competing and keep trying to fight for the playoffs.”
3. Austin Rivers has not made an appreciable difference since he returned from a broken hand. In his last 10 games, he’s actually averaging more points (8.6) and shooting a higher percentage on three-pointers (34.5%) than his season averages, but the guard has been part of a second unit that has largely settled for jump shots and struggled to defend consistently. “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 [Griffin] back in. A little disjointed right now, but we’ll figure it out. We’ll figure out the kinks.”
4. Could the Clippers open the playoffs on the road in Memphis? They’re still 3 1/2 games up on the Grizzlies with 13 games left in the regular season and the Grizzlies missing stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, among others. It’s probably going to be hard for Memphis to overtake the Clippers in the battle for the No. 4 seeding, which entails home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Regardless, it seems almost certain the Grizzlies and Clippers will meet in the first round.
5. The Clippers will go 1-4 on this trip unless they beat Golden State. The Clippers flew back to Los Angeles after their game against the Pelicans and are scheduled to use their practice court Tuesday before departing for the Bay Area. Maybe some reminders of home can help shake them out of their funk. Maybe not. Their next opponent, the Warriors, are 32-0 on their home court. They haven’t lost to the Clippers there since Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the teams in 2014.