Clippers can’t touch the elite
There was a familiar theme for the Clippers on Tuesday night in a 102-92 loss to the Utah Jazz in front of a sellout crowd of 19,911 at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Clippers were again outplayed on the road, suffering another double-digit loss to a team among the elite in the Western Conference.
Giving up uncontested long-range shots, second-chance points and having difficulty stopping penetration contributed to another bad experience away from Staples Center for the struggling Clippers.
Last in the Pacific Division at 11-16, they dropped to 2-10 on the road and might need even more help than Ron Artest could provide just to get back to .500.
The Clippers want to trade Corey Maggette to the Sacramento Kings for Artest, and doing something -- anything -- might at least improve the team’s chemistry, if not its performance. And point guard Sam Cassell is out indefinitely because of a painful heel injury, a significant blow to an offense that hasn’t run smoothly.
That’s the state of things for the Clippers, who still have hope.
“We can still make the playoffs,” said Elton Brand, who led the Clippers with 21 points. “It’s not like we’re a team building to that, trying to accomplish that for the first time; we did that last year. We have the majority of the same people; we just don’t have the confidence and the swagger right now.
“If we can just start winning some games, we could be .500 in no time. And the lucky thing for us is that teams aren’t really separating from us for that eighth playoff spot. The teams ahead of us aren’t full-speed ahead either, so that could help us. But, obviously, we’re not where we thought we would be.”
The Jazz is in a good spot.
Utah (21-8) leads the Northwest Division and is tied for the second-best record in the NBA. In the first three games of the four-game season series, the Jazz has outscored the Clippers by an average of 17 points.
Utah’s physical front line continued to cause problems for the Clippers.
Power forward Carlos Boozer had 26 points and 10 rebounds and center Mehmet Okur contributed 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Jazz had a 44-36 advantage in rebounds, and 14 second-chance points to two for the Clippers.
Moreover, Boozer and Okur apparently are among the league’s most adept big men at jockeying with opponents without being assessed fouls.
“Look at how many fouls their guys get called for. They have great technique,” Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. “I’m really impressed with their technique. I’m going to study the film so much and do the best I can to get our guys to copy it. I think it’s pretty amazing.”
Said center Chris Kaman: “They’ve been playing this way all year, and they’ve been winning, so I think they’ve been given more respect from the referees. It’s kind of like the [Detroit] Pistons ... you can get away with a little bit more.”
The Clippers said they didn’t get many breaks.
Backup point guard Daniel Ewing sparked a 9-0 run that cut Utah’s lead to 81-80 with 5 minutes 28 seconds remaining in the game. With Utah leading, 90-84, and 2:37 to play, Cuttino Mobley shot an airball while attempting a three-point shot.
Officials said that Derek Fisher blocked the shot, but Mobley insisted he was fouled. Okur then made a three-pointer, and the Clippers were finished.
“It’s blatant ... it was right there,” Mobley said. “But I guess that’s just the way it goes for us now.”