Energy Crisis for Clippers
Corey Maggette missed a hurried jump shot on the Clippers’ first possession Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Eric Piatkowski missed a bank shot, then made a bad pass. Michael Olowokandi missed a shot. So did Andre Miller. Olowokandi committed a turnover.
At the other end of the court, the Trail Blazers were everything the Clippers were not during a comprehensive 112-88 victory before a crowd of 18,723 at the Rose Garden. Starting with energetic.
Forward Scottie Pippen made a layup on the Trail Blazers’ first possession. Bonzi Wells hit two free throws. Rasheed Wallace dropped in a lob pass from Pippen. Pippen made a 19-foot jumper and a free throw.
And so it went.
“There’s nothing to say,” Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry said. “We were awful. I think this was the worst game we’ve played [in the two-plus seasons] I’ve been here.”
By the time Maggette made a jumper for the Clippers’ first points, 3 minutes 12 seconds had elapsed and the Trail Blazers had a 9-2 lead. It would only get worse for the Clippers, who trailed by as much as 85-51 late in the third quarter during another forgettable trip to Portland.
Miller, the NBA’s assist leader last season, had one assist to go with 19 points. The Clippers made 31 of 73 shots (42.5%) and 19 of 33 free throws (57.6%). They committed 22 turnovers, which led to 35 Portland points. They were outrebounded, 47-28.
Was it any wonder the Clippers lost their seventh consecutive game at Portland and 19th in their last 20? Their only victory during that stretch was on April 11, 1999.
The Clippers’ hearts and minds seemed to be elsewhere Friday, one night after Tracy McGrady torched them for 35 points in a 101-80 loss to the Orlando Magic at Staples Center.
The only question after the Trail Blazers built a 59-38 halftime lead was how big the final margin would be. Gentry gave most of his starters the fourth quarter off, although it could be said that they took the first, second and third quarters off, too.
The Clippers missed open shots and free throws, handed the ball to the Trail Blazers at the slightest hint of pressure and were hammered on the boards.
It was that kind of night.
“We didn’t match their intensity,” Piatkowski said. “I think they outhustled us on every play. We didn’t run our offense. We were selfish at times. We had complete breakdowns in all facets.”
The Trail Blazers had been struggling, losing six of nine before Friday. Coach Maurice Cheeks benched point guard Damon Stoudamire and replaced him with Derek Anderson, a former Clipper, who responded with 28 points on nine-for-15 shooting. Pippen, a forward, played point guard.
Cheeks also didn’t play Antonio Daniels until the fourth quarter, with victory well in hand.
Whether it was Cheeks’ lineup changes or Clipper ineptitude, the Trail Blazers toyed with their visitors from start to finish. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.
“We’ve got to play defense,” said Elton Brand, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. “We have to stay in front of our men. Turnovers are hurting us. We’re not executing our offense. But we need to play ‘D’. “
The Clippers don’t have much time to fret about their worst performance of the season. They play host to the Seattle SuperSonics on Sunday, then play Monday at Golden State to complete a stretch of four games in five days.
A difficult schedule was no excuse for the Clippers’ woeful play Friday. Or Thursday against the Magic, a team the Clippers defeated, 120-117, with an inspired performance Sunday at Orlando.
“It’s the same team that played well in Orlando and played well in Miami,” Gentry said. “We’ve got to find a way to come back from this. We had another horrendous start. You can’t play uphill all the time.”