The return of Danilo Gallinari did not provide the desired boost the Clippers so badly needed in yet another significant late-season game for them.
As a whole, especially considering what’s at stake, the Clippers did not display nearly enough of a sense of urgency or fight during a dispirited 105-96 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night at the Moda Center before 20,013 fans.
“I thought offensively, as much as defensively, we were horrible,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we never got to our formula that we have — the draw and kick and attack. I thought we were passive most of the night. Why? I wish I knew. But clearly Portland has a confidence against us, and you can see it on the floor.”
The Clippers have six regular-season games left to make a final push for a Western Conference playoff spot that’s still in reach despite having a three-game winning streak snapped.
They are still the ninth-seeded team in the West, but now are two games behind the seventh-seeded Utah Jazz and eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans for the final two playoff berths.
But they really have to put together a better effort than they did against the Trail Blazers.
The Clippers went down 18 in the second quarter and gave up 64 by the half, their nonexistent defense getting shredded by a Trail Blazers team that made 55.3% of its shots in the first 24 minutes.
The Clippers then went down by 23 points in the third quarter, their defense still lacking any punch.
The Clippers couldn’t even make their free throws, shooting 57.1% from the line, going 20 for 35.
The Clippers also had a hard time scoring the basketball, shooting just 40.4% from the field, 30.8% from three-point range.
“Our defense was horrendous in the first half,” Rivers said. “But I think our offense was worse tonight.”
Gallinari had missed the last 18 consecutive games recovering from a non-displaced fracture of his right hand and it showed during his 24 minutes, 32 seconds. He said there still was some pain in his hand.
With his right hand wrapped in black tape, Gallinari didn’t make his first shot until there was 10:10 left in the second quarter, and that was a three-pointer.
He finished the game with 11 points on three-for-six shooting, two-for-two from three-point range. He had two rebounds and one assists.
Gallinari last played in a game on Feb. 22 at Golden State. He was injured when Warriors forward Draymond Green’s elbow struck his hand.
“Listen, he was OK,” Rivers said. “He was better in the second half. I thought his rhythm may have upset other rhythms.
“You never know. We need him, and we’re going to use him.”
The Clippers made the game respectable only with a late surge of energy in the fourth quarter behind the effort of 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic, who had all 10 of his points and nine rebounds in the final 12 minutes, and Lou Williams, who had seven of his 23 points in the fourth.
“That was fool’s gold,” Rivers said about his team’s fourth quarter. “That was Portland, like, ‘OK, we got a 20-point lead.’ Other than that, that was nothing.”