So much for the fun times on the Clippers’ seven-game trip. They arrived at FedEx Forum having won the first two games on their East Coast swing but never seemed to have a chance Sunday during a 107-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that was worse than the final score indicated. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Memphis has become an even worse matchup for the Clippers. The Grizzlies are playing at a faster pace than in recent years, diversifying their attack and giving them multiple options in addition to the grit-and-grind duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Gasol was phenomenal against his nemesis, scoring 30 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The Clippers’ J.J. Redick had two words to describe the impetus behind a leaner, meaner Gasol: “Contract year,” Redick said.
2. The Clippers must learn to play through tough stretches better. The “trust” word started getting thrown around again after the Clippers got out of rhythm on offense and started relying on more individual moves than running their plays. “We just didn’t do what we needed to do,” said forward Blake Griffin, who needed 17 shots to score 12 points. “Very early on I thought we moved the ball real well and then it got stuck a little bit and then we started not trusting again.”
3. DeAndre Jordan played one of his worst games as a Clipper. Foul trouble or not, there’s no way the center should get only two points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. He missed a dunk off an alley-oop lob from Matt Barnes and made little impact defensively, getting no blocks three days after Coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t “know if there is a better defensive player in this league.” There were plenty on Sunday just inside FedEx Forum.
4. Chris Paul needs to be more assertive from the opening tip. The point guard had no points or assists in the first quarter, prompting a lengthy one-on-one chat with assistant coach Sam Cassell during a timeout. Paul was better after that, collecting 22 points and five assists the rest of the game. But it still fell in the too-little-too-late department. “I try to find good shots,” Paul said, “but I have to try to figure out a way to be more aggressive in the first quarter.”
5. Going “home” might be just what Paul and Redick need. The Clippers headed to Charlotte, N.C., immediately after the game to face the slumping Hornets, who have lost five consecutive games. It will qualify as a homecoming of sorts for Paul, a North Carolina native who played at Wake Forest, and Redick, who played at Duke. Reserve forward Reggie Bullock also played at North Carolina.