Reporting from Cleveland -- Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro called his team out, ripped them, using words like “professionalism” and saying they didn’t play like “pros.”
He questioned whether some players were more interested in “how many touches” they got. He talked about a lack of focus and not playing hard on defense, “stuff that losing teams talk about.”
It was a mouthful after the Clippers dropped a 99-92 game to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Clippers were playing their first game since losing Chauncey Billups for the season because of a torn left Achilles’ tendon.
But Del Negro didn’t want to hear the Clippers still wallowing over losing Billups.
The coach was fine with Blake Griffin scoring 25 points and grabbing 15 rebounds, with Caron Butler having 21 points and newcomer Kenyon Martin providing the team with a lift off the bench with six points, four rebounds, two blocked shots and some toughness.
Del Negro was even OK with Chris Paul having a sub-par game, missing 11 of his 16 shots, scoring 16 points but handing out 12 assists.
Del Negro dealt with DeAndre Jordan not scoring in 24 minutes, with Mo Williams missing eight 10 shots in scoring five points and with the Clippers making 32 of 78 (41%) of their shots, including three of 15 (20%) three-pointers.
“But if the energy and the effort and the professionalism is there and the approach, I can deal with that,” Del Negro said. “But when it’s not, that’s not what we’re about.”
Del Negro wasn’t happy about the Clippers getting down by 15 points in the third quarter and allowing the Cavaliers to make 50.7% of their shots, 38.9% of their three-pointers.
“We need all of our players to play hard on the defensive end, have a defensive mind-set instead of worrying about how many touches they get and all that stuff that losing teams talk about,” Del Negro said. “We have to focus in on what we control and that’s our effort, our energy, our focus and how to win games. We didn’t do that tonight and that’s what I’m disappointed about.”
The Cavaliers were playing on back-to-back nights and were without prized rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, who didn’t play because of a concussion.
But they had four players score in double figures, led by Antawn Jamison (27 points, eight rebounds) and Ramon Sessions (24 points, 13 assists).
“We couldn’t control Jamison,” Del Negro said. “Sessions hurt us.”
The Clippers had one last chance to tie the score after Daniel Gibson made one of two free throws for a 95-92 Cavaliers lead with 16.4 seconds left.
But Butler missed a three-pointer and Alonzo Gee made two free throws for a 97-92 Cavaliers lead.
Billups, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Randy Foye (15 points), was missed.
But Del Negro didn’t want to hear that.
“Everyone has to deal with those things,” Del Negro said about injuries. “But we have to move on with that. That would just be an excuse. Guys in there are pros, they are paid to play and we did not play like pros tonight.”