The Los Angeles Clippers are embarrassing right now. There is no other way to describe a 91-87 loss at home to a Phoenix Suns team playing without Steve Nash or Grant Hill. The Clippers seem to have lost all purpose to their basketball. They built a 17 point lead in the first half and should have put this team away. The Suns coach had effectively conceded the game by resting two starters. Any sort of sustained effort would have told Phoenix that their best bet would be to conserve energy for tomorrow night's game back in Arizona against the Pistons. Instead, the Clippers immediately relaxed and allowed the Suns to go on a 9-0 run to end the first half, and the Suns got the message loud and clear -- the Clippers would let them hang around, so why not try to steal one.
Although the Clippers should have been comfortably ahead, they did manage to enter the fourth quarter up 11. They even stretched that lead out to 12 after a minute -- and then the wheels came off.
In the final 11 minutes of the game, the Clippers scored just 9 points -- and four of those were gifts from Alvin Gentry, who for some reason decided to play Hack-a-Clipper when it turns out that playing Defend-a-Clipper was working just fine. A Mo Williams three and a Blake Griffin jumper were the Clippers only two field goals in the final 11 minutes of the game. They didn't get a single basket in the paint, and barely even attempted a shot in the paint. They were passive. They were useless.
This team that seemed so great in close games early in the season has become a complete disaster. Five points from your offense in 11 minutes against a Phoenix Suns defense that is 20th in the league, playing without their best individual defender, is beyond bad. The Suns went to a zone for much of the quarter, and it was as if the Clippers had never seen such a thing. They stood around the perimeter and passed the ball back and forth. There was no effort to penetrate the zone -- no movement off the ball. Nothing. Pass and stand. Pass and stand. It was like watching a high school team before the shot clock. It turns out you can't pass and stand that many times before 24 seconds are up and someone has to force up a contested jumper.
And what happened to Chris Paul? He scored on the Clippers first possession of the fourth quarter -- and never scored again. He didn't even take a shot until his desperation three in the waning seconds after it was already too late. This is the team leader, the supposed difference maker, the mega-star -- and he was invisible. Worse than invisible, as he committed the key turnover with under a minute to go.
The team seems determined to find ways to find new ways to lose. The recent method has been to play lethargic, disinterested basketball for three quarters, build a huge hole, and then mount a furious comeback that falls just short. Tonight they flipped the script. The played well in spurts in the first half, well enough to build a lead in the third quarter -- and then played easily their worst quarter of the season in the fourth.
Did mention that Steve Nash and Grant Hill were not playing?