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Clippers miss Eric Gordon in loss to Houston

On The Clippers

Momentum is an elusive quality for the Clippers, one that seems to slip away at the first hint of a positive development.

The franchise gets the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft . . . only to watch Blake Griffin go down before the season opener because of a serious knee injury.

They take solace in the presence of Eric Gordon . . . until the second-year shooting guard is sidelined for eight games because of a sore left groin.

They win four of five games in late November and get Gordon back . . . only to lose him again because of a sore left hamstring.

So it goes for one of the most anguished teams in professional sports, with the Clippers struggling again in Gordon’s absence Wednesday night at Staples Center during a 102-85 loss to the Houston Rockets.

The Clippers couldn’t defend the perimeter, giving up 12 three-point baskets while making only one, and had difficulty containing Houston guard Aaron Brooks. A speck of a player generously listed at 6 feet, Brooks turned in a gargantuan effort with 22 points on nine-for-11 shooting. And he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

Chants of “Fire Dunleavy!” could be heard after Houston’s Trevor Ariza made a jumper to give the Rockets a nine-point lead with less than five minutes left, and they intensified as the Clippers’ deficit reached 20 points. After out-rebounding the Rockets by 12 in the first half, the Clippers grabbed 14 fewer rebounds than their opponent after intermission.

“The whole second half we didn’t play with the aggressiveness we needed to play with,” said Clippers center Chris Kaman, who made five of 16 shots and had 10 points. “We just didn’t finish the game.”

The Clippers had owned the fourth quarter in recent victories over Memphis and Detroit, but they were dismantled down the stretch Wednesday, getting outscored 16-3 over the final 6:52. Their only basket came on a three-pointer by point guard Baron Davis in the final seconds and they finished the game missing 13 of 14 shots from long range.

It was the fewest three-pointers made by the Clippers since they also made one against Dallas on Dec. 28. On the other hand, Houston made 12 of 23 three-point attempts, including several open looks in transition.

Davis finished with 20 points for the Clippers, who learned before the game they would be without Gordon for at least Wednesday’s game and possibly longer.

“We’re all professionals and we’re supposed to step up when one of our main players is out,” Davis said. “It’s important we seize this opportunity.”

Gordon’s hamstring tightened up in the final minutes of the Clippers’ victory over Memphis on Sunday. He tested it by running in pregame warm-ups Wednesday and didn’t like the way it felt.

“I really run hard during the game and play hard each possession,” he said, “so if I’m not able to do that, I’m not going to risk it.”

The Clippers had won two of three games since Gordon returned from the groin injury, with the guard providing 29 points and lockdown defense in his return as a starter against Memphis.

Gordon has battled hamstring issues before, including before his rookie season, when a similar injury limited him to two summer-league games. He said this injury “doesn’t hurt nearly as much as the other ones,” but he doesn’t know long he will be out.

“It’s a sensitive issue, a hamstring,” Gordon said. “I’m going to wait until we practice.”

Etc.

Coach Mike Dunleavy said it appears as if Griffin probably won’t be able to return until after Jan. 1 from the stress fracture in his left kneecap, slightly later than the team had originally hoped.

The power forward is scheduled to undergo X-rays in about 10 days. If doctors are satisfied with the results, Griffin could begin graduated weight-bearing exercises on a special machine.

“The final determination, the way I understand it, is a CT scan, which will show how the bone mends,” Dunleavy said. “When that looks like it’s really good, that’s when he’s cleared to do basketball-like activities” that could take up to two weeks before Griffin plays in a game.

“A lot of it depends on him and how he feels once he gets on the court and what he looks like,” Dunleavy said.

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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