Clippers lose fourth straight to Hornets, 105-98

Jeff Gross

The Clippers are now 0-3 at home against teams that were in the lottery last season after losing to the New Orleans Hornets despite Caron Butler hitting a team record nine three pointers.

The Los Angeles Clippers have an exceedingly soft stretch in the schedule over the next month, probably the easiest section of their schedule all season. It's a perfect time to fatten up their record on some of the weaker teams in the league. There's just one problem with the plan. The Clippers have yet to win a home game against a team that missed the playoffs last season.

In a game eerily reminiscent of earlier home losses to Golden State and Cleveland, the Clippers played lethargically throughout the night, seemingly expecting to be able to take over the game when they needed to. Unfortunately the Hornets shot lights out the entire game -- abetted by some terrible Clipper defense it must be noted -- and always seemed to be able to hit the big shot when it mattered. Just as in the Golden State and Cleveland games, the Clippers dug a hole, and then worked their way back to tie the game -- but immediately allowed the opponent to rebuild the lead. Two flagrant fouls and two technical fouls -- that's six points in a game where the Clippers managed to close to within six in the final minutes -- didn't help their cause either.

Amazingly the Clippers got a record breaking three point shooting performance from Caron Butler, making nine threes in the game, and also broke the team record for team threes in a game with 18 -- and still managed to lose to the worst team in the Western Conference, missing their two best players, and helping them break a seven game losing streak.

As Butler was detonating in the third quarter, I was getting more and more uneasy. You see, as much fun as it was, Ralph and Mike didn't seem to notice that it wasn't getting the Clippers much of anywhere because the team wasn't getting any stops. They did manage to tie the game at 68 on Butler's sixth three of the quarter -- but New Orleans scored the next eight straight to start a 15-2 run from which the Clippers never recovered. The offense had grown so dependent on Butler at that point that it seemed as if no one else could do anything and the defense was a no show all night.

As great as Butler was, Blake Griffin more than made up for it with a truly terrible performance. In the first quarter Ralph kept talking about how Ryan Anderson had no chance of guarding Griffin -- but he didn't seem to be watching what was happening. In fact Griffin had the worst game of his career, making just 1 of 9 field goals and finishing with a career low four points. He had as many turnovers as he had points -- and more fouls, earning a disqualification with less than three minutes remaining.

I'm not sure what sums up the Clippers game more -- the three fast breaks where they managed to turn the ball over without even getting a shot off, or the four straight three point misses in the final minute when they were down six and had a chance to make it a one possession game.

01:10 Crawford 3pt Shot: Missed
01:08 Barnes Rebound (Off:1 Def:6)
01:01 Barnes 3pt Shot: Missed
01:00 Barnes Rebound (Off:2 Def:6)
00:56.9 Butler 3pt Shot: Missed
00:55.9 Paul Rebound (Off:1 Def:3)
00:51.9 Paul 3pt Shot: Missed


The Clippers young front line that a couple weeks ago was running circles around the Spurs and looked so unstoppable was simply dreadful in this one. Griffin had his career-worst 1-9 night as we know; but DeAndre Jordan only managed 1-4, three points and one rebound in 15 minutes. All told Griffin and Jordan combined to score seven points on 2-13 shooting in 50 minutes of basketball. Ouch again.

And what about the bench? The Clippers started the season looking like the deepest team in the league, with a bench that consistently stretched or even established leads. Tonight they were outscored 44-28 by a bench that featured at least two players most NBA fans have never heard of. Brian Roberts and Lance Thomas are names you'd expect at a law firm, not in an NBA box score, but they, along with Austin Rivers, Jason Smith and Darius Miller all had double digit plus/minus numbers in this game. Need I even say? Ouch.

The loss is the Clippers fourth in a row -- the longest losing streak for the team since Chris Paul arrived in L.A. It comes on the heels of a six game winning streak that is nothing but a distant memory now, although it was only a scant week ago. They have more lottery opponents coming to town -- Minnesota on Wednesday followed by Sacramento on Saturday -- but that seems to be the worst thing for this team this season. If they can't figure out how to take lesser opponents seriously, and figure it out in a hurry, things are going to get uglier than they already are.

- For more go to At The Hive.

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