When the Clippers awoke from their day after Thanksgiving snooze and decided to do what they do best and that’s play defense, they pulled themselves out of a deep hole they were in against the Detroit Pistons.
But even as the Clippers came out of their slumber and took a lead after trailing big for much of the game, eventually their deficiencies led to a 108-97 defeat to the Pistons Friday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Clippers’ vaunted defense was shredded right from the start, their inability to get meaningful stops a big reason why they had their four-game winning streak snapped and their record go to 14-3.
They surrendered 35 points in the first quarter, saw the Pistons shoot 60% and build a 17-point lead. By the end of a game in which the Clippers trailed by 18 in the second and 17 again in the third, the energized Pistons had shot 52.2% from the field, 47.4% from three-point range (9 for 19).
The Clippers turned the ball over 14 times, twice in the final 1 minute, 41 seconds of the game, ending their quest to come back.
“The hope is that you don’t have a lot of games like this where you come out flat like that,” said J.J. Redick, who had 24 points. “It happens throughout the course of the season.
“There’s a number of factors that contribute to that. That’s not an excuse. We’re trying be better than average, better than normal — whatever you want to say. We were very just normal tonight.”
The Clippers unleashed Redick in that third quarter, watching him score 18 points, his career-high for points in a quarter. His 11 consecutive points in the third included a three-pointer that had pulled the Clippers out of a 73-56 hole in the third to within just two points entering the fourth.
“In games like that when you put yourself in that big of a hole, when you come back, you don’t allow yourself room error,” said Blake Griffin, who had 24 points and just three rebounds. “We made some critical errors.”
When the Clippers took a two-point lead early in the fourth, their spotty defense cropped back up again.
The Pistons, who got 17 point from Marcus Morris and 16 points and 10 rebounds from Andre Drummond, answered with five consecutive points to reclaim a lead they never lost again.
It meant the Clippers would lose their first road game of the season to a Pistons team they had destroyed by 32 points earlier this month at Staples Center.
“It ain’t focus. It ain’t respect. It ain’t none of that,” said Chris Paul, who had just eight points and five turnovers. “They was scoring. We had to fight uphill all game. Give them a lot of credit. They played hard.”