I'm disheartened by this loss for a very specific reason. By and large, the Clippers appeared to be trying very hard out there tonight, in contrast to their performances during the road trip. I saw some good hustle, I saw some players that seemed to want to win. And yet they didn't. So I'm disheartened to think that maybe they'll conclude that it's not worth working hard - that they should just go into shut down mode like they were on the road trip for the rest of the season. I was afraid that maybe they'd already reached that point, but at least we did see good effort tonight. It just seems possible that this loss might be the one that convinces them to stop trying.
Because sometimes you play pretty well, and the other team just plays better. Don't get me wrong - the Clippers defense left much to be desired tonight, and their two leading scorers (Chris Kaman, 3 for 15) and Eric Gordon (3 for 12, 0 for 7 on threes) had terrible shooting games. But you can't fault the effort, and the Clippers probably would have won the game despite the struggles of Kaman and Gordon had the Hornets been anything other than scorching hot in the second half.
When the Clippers closed the first half with a nice flourish to take a four point lead, I thought they were incredibly lucky to be ahead in a game in which Kaman was 1 for 11 at that point. In the third quarter I wasn't the least bit worried. The Clippers had managed to hang on to the lead, despite some ridiculously good shooting by New Orleans. There was obviously no way that they would continue to shoot like that in the fourth quarter.
I was wrong - they just kept right on shooting, and almost never missed. The Hornets were 13 for 16 in the third quarter, and opened the fourth by making 10 of their first 13 shots. That fourth quarter included a run of seven consecutive makes featuring three three pointers. That's 17 points, and it took 3 and a half minutes. Again, I'm not going to maintain that the Clippers played great defense, because they didn't. But even on the possessions when they played good defense, it didn't matter - the shots just went in.
New Orleans finished the game 9 for 18 on their threes - the Clippers were 5 for 25. The Hornets shot 56.5% overall. The Clippers shot 43%. So all the good things the Clippers did (they hustled, the won the rebounding battle, they only turned the ball over 8 times) didn't matter. The Hornets just didn't miss enough shots.
The Clippers wasted a terrific game from Baron Davis, who scored 18 points and dished 17 assists. It was the first time in his career that he has had 15 or more assists and yet his team has lost - after 18 career victories, leave it to the Clippers to break that string. (No telling how many assists he would have had if Kaman could have made some shots.)
The other guy who played particularly well was DeAndre Jordan, which is good to see. DJ ended up with 11 points and 11 rebounds and he was very active and engaged throughout. In fact, the Clippers were significantly better with DJ at center tonight, a fact that was not lost on Kim Hughes who benched Kaman for DJ for the final four minutes. Kaman was minus 14 for the game - DJ was plus 3.
Eric Gordon clearly didn't have his legs under him tonight after missing 10 days. It's less clear what's wrong with Kaman. But clearly they each need to play better for the Clippers to be competitive in games down the stretch.
Here's hoping that they want to be.