Clippers rev up their rally too late in 109-106 loss to Pacers

Right now, the Clippers are a bad basketball team.

They are playing their worst basketball of the season at the time of the season they least can afford it.

Their 109-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night was just another sign of how poorly the Clippers have been playing.

And no matter that the Clippers cut a 24-point, third-quarter deficit to one point late in the fourth quarter, they have still lost four of their last five games.

Sure, the Clippers can point to the fourth-quarter bench play of Jamal Crawford (25 points), Lamar Odom (nine points, 10 rebounds), Ryan Hollins (11 points, six rebounds), and a 3-2 zone defense as positives.

They can point to Odom missing a potential score-tying three-point shot just before time expired as a positive.


They can point to Crawford’s 15 fourth-quarter points and his free throw that pulled the Clippers to within 107-104 and to Matt Barnes’ basket that made it 107-106 with 2.2 seconds left.

But in the end, it was another loss after Paul George (23 points, 10 assists, six rebounds) made his two free throws with 1.9 seconds left for the final margin that left the Clippers in desperation mode.

Chris Paul didn’t have it this game, missing 10 of 12 shots and scoring just 10 points. Blake Griffin had 17 points and just five rebounds.

“I think winning is contagious, so I think we need to get that feeling back,” Paul said. “Once you lose, you have to forget quick. This game Wednesday [against Phoenix] is a big game for us, sort of like a playoff game.

“Our first unit, I was disappointed in how we played,” he added.

The Clippers were 7-7 in the month of March. The first day of April wasn’t any better. The Clippers dropped 11/2 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies.

Here’s what that means:

Because the Clippers probably will end up winning the Pacific Division, they would be seeded fourth in the West. But if the Clippers’ record remains worse than the fifth-seeded Grizzlies when the regular season is over, L.A. will have to travel to Memphis to begin the first-round series.

The Clippers did all this talking about how they need to play better, about how they know they have the talent to play better.

So what do they do at the start of the Pacers’ game?

The Clippers turned the ball over on their first two possessions and missed their first four shots.

They allowed the Pacers to open a 10-0 lead, forcing Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro to call a timeout with 8:56 left in the first quarter.

By the end of the first quarter, Roy Hibbert had led the Pacers to a 29-21 lead by scoring 15 points in the quarter on seven-for-seven shooting. He finished with 26 points.

It wasn’t until the Clippers got down by 13 points in the second quarter that they finally did something, as they pulled to within 51-43 at halftime.