A performer spun around FedEx Forum inside a human hamster wheel at halftime Sunday.
The Clippers experienced a similar feeling the entire game against the Memphis Grizzlies, circling the court without really going anywhere.
Everything they tried to counteract Grizzlies center Marc Gasol failed. Terribly.
Multiple defenders couldn’t stop Gasol, who collected 30 points to go with 12 rebounds and delivered the metaphor of the day when he inadvertently thwacked Blake Griffin in the nose and drew blood in the third quarter.
The Clippers departed physically and psychologically battered after a 107-91 loss that erased the feel-good vibes from the early stages of their seven-game trip.
“We can’t start panicking,” said Griffin, who scored 12 points but needed 17 shots to get there, making only five. “I think we did a poor job of handling playing badly earlier in the season, and we can’t start doing that again. Just relax.”
Two sets of numbers illustrated the beatdown inflicted by the Grizzlies: They out-rebounded the Clippers, 52-32, and outscored them in the paint by an identical 52-32 margin.
At least the Clippers could take credit for being consistent.
They ended up being more chippy among themselves than with perhaps their most hated rival, teammates squawking at one another throughout the game.
“We got our … kicked, so it was pretty frustrating,” said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, a non-entity with two points and three rebounds in a foul-plagued 20 minutes.
Gasol and Zach Randolph (10 points, eight rebounds) combined to outscore Griffin and Jordan, 40-14.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers pinned much of his team’s defensive deficiencies on his guards repeatedly being drawn into the interior, forcing Jordan and Griffin into too many help situations. The coach described it as “more of a team breakdown” than the sole responsibility of his big men.
Jordan picked up two fouls within a 14-second span in the second quarter and did not seem happy about the officiating afterward.
“I just wish every game was called the same way,” Jordan said. “Players get the same calls, that’s all.”
The Clippers (7-5) tried a variety of defenders on Gasol, and none worked as he made 13 of 18 shots. Gasol drove past Jordan for a layup, slipped past Spencer Hawes for a dunk and swished a jumper with Jordan in his face.
Rivers was particularly miffed after Hawes failed to swipe a pass in the third quarter and none of his teammates rotated over to help, letting Gasol drive for a dunk.
“I know Marc Gasol has amazing speed,” Rivers deadpanned about the 7-foot-1, 265-pounder, “but he should not be able to get from the three-point line to the basket without anyone touching him.”
Rivers said he did not see a breakdown in the ball movement that had sparked easy victories over Orlando and Miami to start this trip; he just thought his team failed to convert early in a game in which it missed six of its first seven free throws.
Then the Grizzlies (12-2) started imposing their grit-and-grind will. Not even Chris Paul’s 22 points over the final three quarters, after a scoreless opening quarter, could make any difference.
Griffin conceded the Clippers did not match the intensity of the team with the best record in the NBA.
“I think we still need to play our way,” Griffin said. “Teams can play their way and we need to play our way, but we need to impose our will on teams.”