It’s just the preseason. The Clippers have played only four games. Players are learning each other’s tendencies. Their body clocks were still adjusting to China.
Go ahead and pick an excuse, but none seemed to justify the Clippers’ latest lackadaisical showing Wednesday during a 113-71 exhibition loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.
Chris Paul flashed his usual intensity in his return from a one-game absence caused by a broken index finger, but it didn’t carry over to most of his teammates as the Clippers scored only 20 points in the second half on the way to a third consecutive defeat.
The Clippers were sloppy on both ends of the court, particularly during a third quarter in which they were outscored, 29-8. They did not break double figures in scoring in the second half until there were about eight minutes left in the game.
Team owner Steve Ballmer’s head shake from his courtside seat with the Clippers trailing by 33 points and 4 1/2 minutes left said it all.
The Clippers (1-3) had a similarly poor showing in the preseason last year and it didn’t mean much by May, but with nine new players on the roster it seemed fair to expect a little more vitality in these exhibition games. It hasn’t happened.
Paul finished with 17 points but an uncharacteristic five turnovers to go with his six assists. Clippers forward Blake Griffin logged 14 points and 14 rebounds but also struggled to take care of the ball with five turnovers. The Clippers finished with 22 turnovers.
No other Clipper scored in double figures and the bench continued to resemble a hodgepodge of mismatched parts. Paul Pierce missed all five of his shots and picked up one of his team’s two flagrant fouls. Lance Stephenson had two points on one-for-four shooting. Josh Smith missed five of eight free throws.
Clippers backup guard Austin Rivers returned after missing the previous game because of surgery to reimplant five teeth knocked out by a wayward elbow, but he also had a negligible impact with four points, one assist and one steal in 18 minutes.
The Clippers have said they want to be a top defensive team but hardly looked like it in allowing six Hornets to reach double figures in scoring. Jeremy Lin scored Charlotte’s first 10 points on the way to 13 points and Al Jefferson finished with 17.
The Clippers were scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles after the game and will have nearly a week to regroup before their next game Oct. 20 against Golden State at Staples Center. Maybe a game against the defending NBA champions and their arch rival will be what’s needed to show a little life.