Clippers Keeping Their Perfect Season Intact
To simply say that the Clippers are the worst team in the NBA may not be justice enough.
After doing their best imitation of the Washington Generals in back-to-back losses to the Lakers, the Clippers completed their stretch of three losses in three nights on Saturday with a 103-74 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks in front of 11,563 at the Arrowhead Pond.
The loss was the Clippers’ 12th in 12 games, leaving them four short of the franchise record of 16 consecutive losses to start the season--set in 1994--and only five away from tying Miami’s league mark of 17, established in 1988, the Heat’s debut season.
“Twelve in a row is not good,” said point guard Darrick Martin in possibly the understatement of the year. “Coming from UCLA and playing [with] Earvin [Johnson], this is hard to swallow. I don’t think I’ve slept through the night in two weeks.”
With Michael Olowokandi and Maurice Taylor, players the Clippers are counting on to turn things around not in uniform because of injuries, Atlanta had a field day.
Just like they did against the Lakers, who they made look like the Harlem Globetrotters facing their traditional punching bag Generals, the Clippers did not give much of a fight against the Hawks, who were also playing without Steve Smith and Alan Henderson.
“We can’t point to injuries, we have to suck it up and step up,” Clipper Coach Chris Ford said. “As a player, you have to look at this as a golden opportunity to get minutes and make it happen. You have to have a passion for the game and hate to lose.”
The Clippers started the game with a dud. They scored 16 points in the first quarter, 18 in the second, 13 in the third (tying a season low) and needed a last second three-point basket by rookie Tyrone Nesby to reach 27 in the fourth. Nesby’s basket helped prevent the Clippers from eclipsing their season-low total of 73-set against Minnesota.
The Hawks were glad to see the Clippers come out flat. After playing two games in Texas and having to travel to Orlando to complete a four-game trip, Atlanta was scared of being the first team to lose to the Clippers.
“A kind of team like that is the kind of team you fear,” said Grant Long, who had 15 points. “They’re a loaded gun ready to go off.”
Atlanta had seven players score 11 or more points and shot 54% from the field. The Clippers, who shot 39%, had only three players score in double figures, with Nesby having a team-high 17.
Ford’s frustration with his players’ lack of discipline is growing. After every loss, he tells his team the same thing but his words do not sink in.
“He goes over the [defensive ] rotation,” Nesby said. “He constantly goes over the plays, over and over. It isn’t his fault, he’s done his job. Now we need to do our job.”
Although it might be hard to believe, considering how poorly the Clippers have played, there were some good signs.
Rookie forward Brian Skinner made his NBA debut after missing the first 11 games because of a knee injury. He came off the bench and provided some aggressiveness in 16 minutes. Skinner, who played in one exhibition game before his injury, finished with five points and three rebounds.
Keith Closs played well after being disciplined by Ford, who kept him out of Friday’s loss to the Lakers. Closs only had two points, coming on a second half dunk, but he made his presence felt underneath against Atlanta center Dikembe Mutombo.
Next up for the Clippers is a three-game trip to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. If they return without a victory, their franchise record and league record is within reach.