The Clippers were so short-handed Sunday that some odd possibilities no longer seemed farfetched.
“We have Turk playing the backup five,” said center DeAndre Jordan, the starter at that spot, referring to teammate Hedo Turkoglu. “We can’t win like that.”
Jordan was joking, but just about every scenario was suddenly conceivable for the Clippers before and after a 131-108 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Spencer Hawes replaced Blake Griffin in the Clippers’ starting lineup after Griffin was diagnosed with a staph infection in his right elbow that could sideline him from 10 days to six weeks.
Austin Rivers took shooting guard J.J. Redick’s spot after Redick missed a third consecutive game because of back spasms. The Clippers nearly needed a replacement for Rivers, who played on a sore left foot.
And the Clippers’ depth became even more stretched in the second quarter when backup forward Glen Davis had to leave because of upper back spasms.
If anyone else went down the Clippers might have considered suiting up assistant coach Sam Cassell.
“We’re depleted right now, but no one feels sorry for us,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t feel sorry for us. You know what I mean? You’ve just got to figure it out and keep playing.”
The outcome against the Thunder seemed predictable given the Clippers’ manpower issues. They were roughly even for a quarter and competitive for the first half before being overwhelmed by forward Kevin Durant (29 points) and guard Russell Westbrook and rookie Mitch McGary, who scored 19 apiece.
The Clippers were left with their first four-game losing streak since Jan. 21-26, 2013, largely because of a defense that has allowed an average of 119 points over the last three games.
“Any time our defense gives up 130-plus, 120-plus, we’re not going to win a lot of basketball games,” Jordan said. “That’s my big concern right now.”
The Clippers were also outrebounded, 54-29 — Westbrook had a game-high 11 — and even out-trash-talked. When Chris Paul used a crossover dribble on McGary and made a jump shot late in the third quarter, the Clippers point guard stared at the Thunder bench only for Durant to stare back and retort, “You’re down 20 now, homie.”
Paul had 18 points and 13 assists but Hawes went scoreless in the second half after scoring 17 points in the first half. Jamal Crawford scored 21 points off the bench for the Clippers but missed 12 of 20 shots, deepening his monthlong shooting slump.
The Clippers (33-19) dropped to 2-5 on their Grammy Awards trip, which mercifully ends Monday in Dallas. Then again, it may not be all that merciful of an ending considering Doc Rivers said he would likely hold out Redick again and Davis’ status remained unclear.
There is precedent for the Clippers’ persevering through a significant injury to a star. When Paul went down for 18 games last season with a shoulder injury, the Clippers relied on a step-up performance from Griffin to go 12-6.
“It needs to be the opposite,” Jordan said. “Chris has to do the same thing. He has to step up while Blake is out. I’m just going to continue to do my job and anything more I can give, that’s what I have to be able to do.”
He was the funniest guy in the room Sunday, which would have to suffice for now.
CLIPPERS AT DALLAS
When: 5:30 p.m. PST, Monday.
Where: American Airlines Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 33-19, Mavericks 35-18.
Record vs. Mavericks: 1-0.
Update: With the Clippers having lost five of seven games on their eight-game trip, guard Austin Rivers called the finale against the Mavericks “probably the biggest game of the trip. You want that win going back home. You want to take something away from this trip. We got that big win at the end, we’re on a winning streak, and let’s head back home and get a win before All-Star break.” The Mavericks have won three of four games since point guard Rajon Rondo sustained a broken nose that is expected to sideline him indefinitely.