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Short-Handed Clippers Barely Put Up a Fight

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With Lamar Odom and Maurice Taylor in street clothes and Keith Closs a late scratch because of an asthma attack, the Detroit Pistons made easy work of the Clippers on Saturday night at Staples Center.

Detroit basically put the game away with a torrid first half, making 72.2% of its shots en route to a 126-107 rout before 17,840.

Guard Jerry Stackhouse led the Pistons with 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting, but he had plenty of help. Lindsey Hunter scored 20 points and Grant Hill had 19 for the Pistons, who made 63.3% of their shots overall and outrebounded the Clippers, 48-22.

Detroit is 8-3 under interim Coach George Irvine, who took over for Alvin Gentry early this month.

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“Short-handed or not, you can’t give up 126 points,” said Clipper interim Coach Jim Todd, who is 3-23 since taking over for Chris Ford in February.

Forward Tyrone Nesby scored 22 points, center Michael Olowokandi had 21 and Eric Piatkowski added 20 for the Clippers, who definitely missed the offense of Odom (sidelined because of a strained left calf) and Taylor (sprained left ankle), who are listed as day-to-day.

“We had to get people to step up and score because we didn’t have [Odom and Taylor],” Todd said. “We had to get points on the board. . . . Unfortunately, defensively we couldn’t get it done.”

The Clippers have lost seven games in a row and 39 of 44, but it was difficult to tell they’re in such a slump in their locker room after the game. Players joked with each other and wore smiles instead of frowns.

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“Off the court, we get along as well as any team,” Olowokandi said. “It’s only on the court where everybody goes their different ways.

“But we’ve handled the losing pretty well. It definitely could be worse with people fighting with each other.”

Against Detroit, the Clippers didn’t snipe at each other the way they usually do on the court, but teamwork still wasn’t a strong point. Even after the Clippers cut their deficit from 24 points to 11 in the third quarter, they weren’t able to pull together to trim the Pistons’ lead any further.

Stackhouse, Hill and Hunter combined to make 27 of 43 shots.

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“If you guard those guys expecting a double team, and it doesn’t come, that makes for a difficult night,” Piatkowski said.

With 11 games remaining, including seven at home, the Clippers can only look back at what has gone wrong this season.

“I will try and go with what my momma always said and that is if you don’t have anything good to say, it’s best not to say anything at all,” Nesby said.

“There’s so much more to it but we know as a team we should stick together. But there’s been times when we’ve wanted to cuss each other out.”

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The Clippers have had their share of arguments on the court in games and in practices. Whether it was Derek Anderson and Nesby getting into it in a game last week or Closs and Taylor pushing each other in an early season practice, the Clippers have shown some fight.

They just haven’t shown it often enough against their opponents.

“It would be nice if we could treat our relationships the same on the court like we do off it,” Olowokandi said. “But once we start to play, people only care about looking out for themselves.”

Whenever the Clippers do help each other, it seems fake because it doesn’t happen often enough. There simply has not been much trust among the players.

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“It’s hard to come out and look into the eyes of three guys and you can tell they want to play, and then look into the eyes of everyone else and they just look like they want to get the game over with,” Nesby said.

“We don’t have a lot [of comradeship]. . . . We don’t go to each other and say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it next time.’ We get a lot of ‘Aw, man! Why did you take that shot?’ type of stuff.”

The type of stuff associated with a 14-57 team.


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