Clippers look to regain their mojo after losses to NBA’s two best teams
Somewhere between a four-game winning streak before the weeklong All-Star break, a two-game post-break losing streak and the return of Chris Paul, the Clippers dipped.
A once-efficient offense is not so efficient. A once-stout defense is not so stout.
The Clippers still have 24 regular-season games left to solidify both of those elements that have slipped in and out of order.
“I think we’re all trying to find our way back. Not our way like we’re lost in the wilderness. I’m just saying there are times you go through offensive ruts and you lose your rhythm,” Coach Doc Rivers said late Friday night after the Clippers’ 105-97 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Paul’s return. “Right before the break, we had an amazing rhythm going.”
Rivers spoke glowingly about the “great rhythm” the Clippers had in piling up 61 first-half points against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.
Then the offense got stagnant in the second half because of too much standing around and because the basketball was stuck on one side of the court too often.
The defense was in shambles, giving up a whopping 50 points to the Warriors in the third quarter. There were times when some Clippers didn’t even get back on defense, making it easier for the potent Warriors to score.
Against the Spurs, Rivers said they scored in the first half, “but we didn’t really have a rhythm.”
“We were just scoring baskets,” he said. “So we have to get back to being more organized, working our sets. Those are the things we can do. What we’re not doing, it’s not hard to get back. I will say that.”
The Clippers also have to assimilate Paul back into the fold after he missed 14 games recovering from left thumb surgery.
“This is our first game in a long while with everybody,” Paul said after the game against the Spurs. “I probably threw some guys off, but we’re going to figure it out.”
The Clippers went 6-8 in the games Paul sat out.
But there also was a stretch of 18 games Blake Griffin missed with a right knee injury.
“We’ve dealt with so many different injuries in the past that everything is somewhat irrelevant until you get the whole crew out there,” Paul said. “No matter how we played with Blake out, no matter how we played with me out, we need both of us as well as everybody else in order to see what we really look like.”
It’s only two games after the All-Star break and Paul has played in just one of them, but he still had high hopes the Clippers could reclaim their mojo immediately.
“I was hoping in no time, but we lost [Friday] night,” Paul said. “But we’re going to see. You’ve got to be optimistic. We play again on Sunday [against Charlotte], and so we’ve got to get that one.”
When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.
Records: Clippers 35-23, Hornets 25-33.
Records vs. Hornets: 1-0.
Update: The Clippers have defeated Charlotte six consecutive times at home. The Hornets ended a five-game losing streak with a victory at Sacramento on Saturday. All-Star point guard Kemba Walker leads the Hornets in scoring (22.5) and Nicolas Batum leads them in assists (5.9). Charlotte was allowing 104.4 points per game, 10th-best in the NBA, before Saturday.
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