It was a slow, sluggish game for the Clippers on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena during a 115-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. The defense usually rests for the Clippers in recent games. They have given up an average of 119 points in their last three games, way too many even if one of the games went to overtime. "First half against Sacramento, a lot of the game against Houston — the fourth quarter especially — and [Thursday] pretty much the whole game," Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick said. If there was an upside, it's that the Clippers seemed convinced they know how to fix the problem. "We just need to work on our communication and start talking more," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said.
2. The Clippers seemed to miss Blake Griffin for the first time since he was injured. Their offense seemed punchless, with only Paul (30 points) and Redick (17) doing anything worthwhile among the starters, but it was more than that. The Clippers seemed to lack a toughness that Griffin often brings. He won't be back Friday against the New York Knicks and is also expected to miss Sunday's game against the Toronto Raptors, but a return Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers is a possibility. The Clippers have gone 10-2 since Griffin was sidelined late last month with a partially torn left quadriceps tendon.
3. Cleveland showed the rest of the NBA how effective intentionally fouling DeAndre Jordan can be when done properly. The Cavaliers were up by 10 points in the third quarter when they started hacking Jordan. He made three of eight free throws and the Clippers' allowed Cleveland to get basket after basket, increasing its lead to 14. "Statistically, it shows that if you foul when down you rarely win," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "But when you foul when you're up, you win a lot. So they did it the right way."
4. The Clippers' struggles against the top teams in the Eastern Conference continued. They are 1-10 over the last two seasons against the top four teams in the East, which doesn't do much for the Clippers' claim to be a contender for an NBA title. The Clippers' only victory in that stretch came on the road against Chicago last season. A check of the Clippers' schedule reveals two more top teams from the East — Toronto and Atlanta — coming up before the end of their five-game trip.
5. Escape from New York could take on a double meaning for the Clippers. They will try to break out of the defensive funk that has plagued them the last week while also getting out of the city before a massive snowstorm envelops the city. Scores of flights out of area airports Saturday have been canceled, meaning it would be a good move if the Clippers departed immediately after their game against the Knicks on Friday as proposed. It helps that they don't have to play again until facing the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.