This wasn’t quite what the Clippers had in mind, not after all the excitement and hope they had generated because of the players they had acquired and retained.
This wasn’t quite the way the Clippers had hoped to start the 2011-12 season, not after finding a way to win their regular-season opener against Golden State.
But the Clippers have lost two straight games, both to teams considered members of the NBA elite, the latest in front of their own fans who saw them lose their home opener, 114-101 to the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at Staples Center.
While the media waited in the press area for Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro, he could be heard raising his voice at his players.
“I was yelling,” Del Negro said. “It was the truth.”
His team still isn’t playing good defense, something he mentioned to the media.
Two nights after a 115-90 loss at San Antonio in which the Spurs shot 56%, the Clippers allowed the Bulls to make 50% of their shots and gave up 114 points.
Del Negro also addressed his team’s rebounding problems, after the Bulls beat them on the boards, 45-31. The Clippers have been outrebounded in all three regular-season games and both exhibition games.
“Our defense and our rebounding [are] obviously an issue,” Del Negro said. “We’re giving up too many points right now.
“We have a lot to work on, especially on the defensive end. It’s more just becoming a team and it’s more becoming just the trust factor.”
Derrick Rose showed why he was the NBA’s most valuable player from last season, penetrating seemingly at will, drawing fouls and hitting key shots in the fourth quarter.
Rose, who finished with 29 points and 16 assists and was 10 for 11 from the free-throw line, made a three-pointer to give the Bulls a 15-point lead, then another after the Clippers had closed to within 10.
Rose capped his night by finding Joakim Noah for a basket and a 110-95 Bulls lead, leading some fans to chant “M-V-P.”
“We changed up our coverage on him,” Del Negro said. “But he’s seen them all right now. Derrick is just a handful, and we all know that.”
Blake Griffin had 34 points and 13 rebounds and Chris Paul had 15 points and 14 assists for the Clippers. But when DeAndre Jordan picked up his fourth foul with 8:34 left in the third quarter, it put them in a bad spot. Brian Cook replaced him but he also had four fouls through three quarters.
At the start of the fourth quarter, when it was time to give Griffin a rest, rookie Trey Thompkins was forced into action again.
After Cook got his fifth foul, Jordan came back into the game, only to pick up his fifth foul going over the back of a Bulls player.
That forced the Clippers to go small, with the 6-10 Thompkins and 6-7 Ryan Gomes.
The night began with the Clippers being introduced, each of them coming out one of the tunnels.
The first was Chauncey Billups, who didn’t play because of a sore right groin.
Then the rest of them followed.
Paul and Griffin spoke to the crowd, thanking the fans for their support.
“We’re going to try to make this a season you won’t forget,” Griffin said.
The Clippers then started the game like they were on Red Bull — full of energy.
Griffin began the affair by taking a few dribbles and then flying in for a two-handed dunk. The crowd again was on its feet.
Griffin scored again in the post and Mo Williams, starting in place of Billups, made a three-pointer for a 7-0 Clippers lead that forced the Bulls to call a quick timeout.
That energy high didn’t last much longer.
The Clippers didn’t go totally flat. They just couldn’t keep up that frantic pace.
Not only that, the Clippers had a few bad moments in the second quarter.
Jordan picked up his third foul with 4:57 left in the first half, forcing him to take a seat on the bench.
That forced Del Negro to put in Thompkins for the first time.