One thing is certain. Fringe players throughout the NBA are, as we speak, checking the schedule and circling the dates against the Clippers. Because it's their best chance to score a career high, and probably go for 30. Starters too are interested in the LA date - it's a chance to take a day off, knowing full well that their backup - pretty much no matter who it is - can more than handle the job.
The Lakers second team is very good and is going to beat plenty of teams this season, so the fact that Kobe Bryant has barely broken a sweat in two games against the Clippers isn't too surprising. Then it was Paul Millsap keeping Carlos Boozer on the bench for the final 14 minutes of the Utah game, scoring 15 straight fourth quarter points on his way to 24. The next game, Luis Scola and Carl Landry combined for 34 points and 16 rebounds. Wednesday night it was Beno Udrih, rescued from the waiver wire prior to last season, scoring a career high 30 points for the Kings playing without Kevin Martin. Udrih made 13 of 20 shots in that game. Not to be outdone, undrafted rookie free agent Anthony Morrow scored 37 points on 15 for 20 shooting in this game. It was the first time in his career he'd scored over 30. And the first time he'd scored over 20. And the first time he'd scored in double figures. When you include his 4 three pointers, Morrow's eFG% for the game was... wait for it... 85%.
So, I'm just saying, George Hill and Roger Mason and Anthony Tolliver are flat salivating at the prospect of coming into Staples Monday night.
This loss may be even more disheartening than the one against the Kings Wednesday, and that's saying a lot. Because the Clippers, after falling behind at the outset 13-2, actually played well enough to take a 4 point lead in the third quarter. At that point, they had the momentum, playing on their home court, and had seemingly withstood a quick start by the hot-shooting Warriors. So to turn around and get outscored by 22 in the final 18 minutes is... is...
OK, I have a pretty good vocabulary. And I want to use unacceptable, but I used that after the last game, and frankly, what is the point? Unacceptable to whom? Do I even have the option of accepting this or not accepting it? Inexcusable? That's good and appropriate and applicable - there certainly is no excuse for playing this way. But is it strong enough?
Because, you see, in the Kings game the Clippers never showed any life. It was maddening and pathetic, but there was some tiny sliver of twisted reasoning that said "Oh well, they just never had it in that game. They came out flat, never got going, and laid an egg. It happens." But to play good defense for half a quarter, to turn an eight point deficit into a four point lead, and THEN to disappear against a mediocre opponent? How does that even happen? (By the way, it occurs to me that die hard fans are the 'enablers' of bad basketball teams. When I make excuses for the Clippers, is it a little like Courtney Love buying some more heroin for Kurt Cobain, or is that going a little too far?)
You can't allow teams to shoot 51% and expect to win. You certainly can't do it while you're shooting under 40%. (It's bad enough when the opponent shoots 49% and you shoot 40%, but how much worse does it feel when they're in the 50's and you're in the 30's?) And yet again the Clippers were outrebounded.
If this team can't rebound and can't defend, what exactly CAN they do?