In this case, Clippers are guilty of slacking off

"I told the guys I was proud of them," said Coach Vinny Del Negro, presumably because Denver didn't score 100.

"No, no, because of the streak and everything they've dealt with and the way they have stayed together," said Del Negro.

So the first mention of the streak by the Clippers is after they have gotten beaten by something like 100 points and "run out of the building,'' as the Nuggets' radio broadcaster put it.

A team wins 17 in a row, and more should be expected of it every night, especially when mentioned in some corners as a championship contender.

"We didn't deserve to win because we didn't play hard enough,'' said Del Negro, but he's proud of his slackers.

No one expects a team to win them all, or 18 in a row for that matter, but losing because the effort is not there should be unacceptable.

Especially when Denver Coach George Karl said before the game, "I think the Clippers play more intense minutes than anybody in the NBA.''

Here's guessing he mentioned that to his own team by way of preparation, as Paul said later, "They kept the pressure on us for all 48 minutes.''

Karl went on to praise the Clippers' bench.

"I think their bench plays harder than the first unit. They play with a ferocious intensity.''

They did before suiting up for this game.

Now as for buying into recent talk the Clippers might be legitimate championship contenders, Karl said, "I don't want to sign that contract yet. But I probably will.''

The Clippers are on trial, all right, and how they handle success will be just as important as how they handle defeat.

It begins with Paul, one of the most competitive players in the game, but who didn't recognize the trouble his team was in before it was too late.

He took three shots in the first half, finishing with nine shots for the game.

He's one of the game's best closers, but why wait so long to demonstrate his effectiveness as a scorer?

"I hope you all in Los Angeles appreciate what a great point guard you're watching," Karl said. "He's a candidate right now for defensive player of the year. And his leadership and the intangibles he brings to the game are contagious."

And that's why he has to do more when nobody else seems capable of doing so.

"Maybe I can beg off tomorrow night's game with Golden State," I told Paul, now that the streak is over.

"We're going to lose that one too?" he asked.

"Probably," I suggested.

"Shoot, then let's just go home," Paul said. "I'd love to go home and see my wife and kids."

"Fine, let's fly home together on United."

"No, I'm going to take Delta," says Paul.

I think he was just kidding, but it will be interesting to see who does show up to play Golden State.

As good as they are at beating the crummy teams in the league to put together a winning streak, they might have to wait to start another streak Friday when they play the Lakers.