Chris Paul looked worthy of returning to Toronto in a few weeks, the Clippers point guard putting together another superlative effort that should help land him a spot as a reserve in the All-Star game.
The Clippers reserves didn't look worthy of a Development League showcase.
They were outscored, outhustled and outmuscled Sunday at Air Canada Centre, their many shortcomings resulting in the Clippers' 112-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
"It was the second unit," Coach Doc Rivers said during a 90-second postgame media session after Clippers reserves were outscored, 51-29, by their counterparts. "It's not that hard to explain this game."
An equally succinct game summary could go something like this: The Clippers reserves came, they saw, they squandered.
The plus-minus stats said it all. Every Clippers starter was at least plus-five, meaning their team outscored the Raptors by at least five points while they were on the court. The six reserves who logged the most minutes were at least minus-23, with Austin Rivers a minus-28 and Jamal Crawford a minus-33.
"You look at the end of the game and we're all in the minus like that, that's crazy," Austin Rivers said. "In my career, I don't think I've ever had a minus-20-something ever. It's one of those games, man. We just had a bad game."
The Clippers actually led by 13 points during a first quarter in which they scored 34.
Paul's 23 points and 11 assists, and DeAndre Jordan's 15 points and 13 rebounds couldn't amount to much given the struggles of the second unit.
It was the second time in four days the Clippers looked overmatched without Blake Griffin against a top Eastern Conference team. The Clippers are 11-3 without their All-Star power forward sidelined because of a quadriceps injury, with the bulk of the victories coming against teams with losing records.
There was no update on Griffin's status, Doc Rivers said, and it's considered doubtful Griffin will play against Indiana and Atlanta in the final two games of the trip.
Kyle Lowry had 21 points and four bench players reached double figures in scoring for Toronto, which stretched its season-high winning streak to eight games.
The Raptors went on a 25-3 run bridging the first and second quarters and were up, 62-49, at halftime thanks largely to sloppy Clippers offense and passive defense. The Clippers starters got the deficit down to four points in the third quarter before the reserves re-entered the game and that was that.
Part of the problem was the Clippers reserves combined for nine of the team's 13 turnovers.
"I think our bench was thinking about scoring instead of defending," Doc Rivers said. "It happens a lot. You come into the game and you have a lead and you think you're going to add to the lead instead of understanding the way we got the lead was because we were getting stops."
Frustration started to mount for the Clippers even before halftime, with Paul pushing off on DeMar DeRozan for an offensive foul and technical fouls being assessed to Crawford and the Raptors' Patrick Patterson after some shoving near the sideline.
"It's tough," Paul said. "To get off to the start that we got off to and let those guys back in the game, we just never recovered."
It was the Clippers' fourth consecutive loss to the Raptors, including a November defeat that triggered a postgame tirade in the locker room.
The Clippers weren't as chatty this time, particularly Doc Rivers, whose beloved New England Patriots also lost a playoff game.
"Patriots lost," Rivers said, "bad night."