Well, that didn’t go so well. The Clippers were seeking a signature victory but their effort was largely illegible during a 107-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night at Staples Center. Here are five (mostly sobering) takeaways from the game:
1. The Clippers continue to struggle against elite teams. They are now 7-10 against teams that currently have winning records, including 0-5 against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. They have quality victories over Golden State, Portland and Phoenix (twice) but have not been able to string together a consecutive stretch of solid play, which has led to widespread concern in all corners of Clippers Nation.
2. Did the bizarre postgame scene have larger implications? Chris Paul addressed the media before Coach Doc Rivers after the game, a strange and possibly unprecedented sequence. Rivers said he was talking to coaches and players but did not hold an official team meeting. Still, it seemed like something was out of sorts for the typically punctual coach not to speak with reporters until more than 20 minutes after the game had ended.
3. Paul was about as hard on his team as he’s been. Unlike his coach, who preached patience in the middle of a season in which he hopes his team is rounding into form, the All-Star point guard criticized its defense and consistency. He had some valid points on a night the Clippers gave up 63 points in the second half and committed 21 turnovers.
4. The bench needs some help, whether it’s internal improvement or some sort of move. There’s no sugarcoating it anymore. Spencer Hawes (three points on one-for-six shooting) and Jordan Farmar (scoreless on zero-for-five shooting) have been huge disappointments as the team’s supposedly big off-season additions. No one is consistently contributing off the bench besides super sub Jamal Crawford, and Rivers didn’t even get the usual energetic burst from Glen Davis because “Big Baby” logged the dreaded DNP-Coach’s Decision. As other teams around the league attempt to bolster themselves with a flurry of moves, the Clippers have continued to stand pat. But their lack of depth and continued inconsistency suggests they need to make some sort of move before the trading deadline next month.
5. The Clippers’ defense hardly qualifies as elite right now. They were beaten off the dribble and routinely failed to get a hand in the face of Atlanta’s outside shooters, who combined to make 13 of 27 three-pointers (48.1%). It’s hard to make a deep playoff run without a high-quality defense and right now the Clippers don’t have one.