The Clippers beat the top team in the Western Conference on Christmas Day but experienced a bit of a holiday hangover two days later against the East-leading Toronto Raptors during a 110-98 loss at Staples Center on Saturday. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1) The schedule continues to catch up with the Clippers. They had played two games and taken a cross-country flight from Atlanta while Toronto had basked in the glory of four consecutive days off, and it showed in the second half as the Raptors pulled away. “Any time you’re playing a team that’s coming off four days rest,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said, “that second half is going to be the toughest challenge and they came out and they looked like they were fresh in the second half and I didn’t think we responded well.” The Raptors put the game away with a 13-2 run to start the fourth quarter, much of the surge coming against the Clippers reserves.
2) The first and second units are still out of sync. One game the starters will get off to a bad start and the bench will get the Clippers back in the game. The next the starters will build a big lead and the reserves will give it all away. Both units have not played well in the same game except for a handful of times this season, and that was the case again against the Raptors. Jamal Crawford scored 20 points off the bench but the seven other reserves who played combined for only 13 points. That’s not going to get it done against top-tier teams like the Raptors.
3) Jordan Farmar is still struggling two months into the season. The Clippers need to find a way to get more out of their backup point guard, who has not been able to replicate the success of his predecessor, Darren Collison. Does Clippers Coach Doc Rivers think it’s on Farmar or Rivers to get Farmar going? “It’s always 50-50 on that,” Rivers said. “If a guy’s not playing great for you, there’s always something a coach can do and I’m still looking for those things. And Jordan has to do it himself too. When he comes in, the ball pressure has to pick up from him. His shot-making, he can do that.” Rivers said he also needed to simplify the offense for the second unit to help it become more productive scoring. The coach said he was not really contemplating replacing Farmar with third-string point guard Jared Cunningham. “I think about all 15 guys,” Rivers said, “but I think Jordan is the right guy.”
4) The Clippers might as well see what they have in Reggie Bullock and C.J. Wilcox. Rivers has played Bullock more recently, but Wilcox has been inactive upon the return of Chris Douglas-Roberts. If the Clippers want to develop their two most recent first-round draft picks or enhance their value for trade purposes, they need to give them more playing time. Bullock’s minutes have been spotty and Wilcox has barely played this season. You never want to give up on players too early, but as of now neither has given the Clippers much, largely because they haven’t been given much of an opportunity.
5) Spencer Hawes’ Christmas suit continued to be the talk of the town. Rivers drew laughter before the game after confirming there was no chance of Hawes returning Saturday from the bone bruise in his left knee that has sidelined him for nearly three weeks. “No chance of him wearing that suit again either,” Rivers deadpanned, referring to the outfit that featured Christmas trees in a colorful red-and-green checked pattern. The coach joked the suit was “what distracted [Stephen] Curry and [Klay] Thompson,” who both had off-shooting nights during the Clippers’ victory over the Golden State Warriors. Hawes said he ordered the suit online but the pants were a little short on his 7-foot-1 frame, falling a few inches above his shoes. Rivers was asked whether Hawes' wearing the suit was a dare. “I hope it was a dare,” Rivers said. “If he just did that on his own, that’s scary.”