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Toronto 97 - Clippers 75

Every once in a while, I actually frame the issues relatively well on this site.  Here's what I said in the preview for the Raptors game:

It's hard to know what to expect from the Clippers tonight.  After embarrassing themselves in a 34 point loss in Milwaukee, will they be re-energized to be back home?  Will they be able to prove that the last game was just a fluke?  This game precedes an all-star-break-like hiatus of 5 days off - so maybe they'll just mail it in, and start their vacations a day early.

Let's go with mail it in.  Yes, they were missing Marcus Camby who was not with the team for personal reasons.  But they were listless and unfocused in the first half, and fell behind by 21.  Baron Davis alone had 5 turnovers in the first quarter.  Sounds like he might have been thinking about his holiday party schedule.

if the bench is incapable of providing any quality minutes, the starters will just wear down in the fourth quarter again.

There are extenuating circumstances on this one.  After playing a solid third quarter, the Clippers had cut the lead down to 6 on the first basket of the fourth quarter, a three pointer by Baron Davis.  On the ensuing possession, Jake Voskuhl shoved Zach Randolph in the back after a Chris Bosh lay up, sending Z-Bo sprawling on top of DeAndre Jordan, who'd been run over by Bosh on the play as well.  The net result of the sequence was two Clipper bigs on the floor, not a single whistle, and Randolph wound up in the locker room for the rest of the game with a bruised knee.  (X-rays were negative, so fingers crossed he could be OK for Sunday.)  Now playing without Camby or Randolph, the Clippers' bigs were relatively ineffective both on offense and defense against Bosh and a rejuvenated Jermaine O'Neal, and the Raptors ran away with the game.  The 22 point final margin was the largest of the game.

It would be really great to be able to write that [Milwaukee] game off as a complete anomaly - let's hope the Clippers give us a reason to believe that tonight.

Nope.  No reason was provided.

These last two losses are very disappointing.  The team lost to two different Eastern Conference opponents with losing records by a combined 56 points.  For all the talk of a resurgent Eastern Conference, let's face it - the West still has more depth.  So even if we've long since come to grips with the fact that the playoffs this season are unrealistic, we'd still like to think that this new team could compete on that level the rest of the season.  But you MUST beat the second tier East teams to be competitive in the West. 

Yes, it was 5 games in 5 cities in 7 nights.  And it goes without saying that a team that has gotten absolutely no productivity from it's bench can ill-afford to lose a starter for the game, let alone another one in the fourth quarter.  Having said all that, it's far from certain that the Clippers could have beaten the Raptors tonight even with Camby and Randolph.  Bosh scored 18 points in the fourth quarter alone, and did not appear particularly interested in losing this game.  Camby would have been the best option against Bosh, that's for sure.  But I doubt anyone was stopping Bosh last night.

But the issues go way beyond "They were tired" or "They were short-handed."  The small forwards combined to shoot 3 for 19.  And let's face it, Steve Novak doesn't get to use the 'tired legs' excuse, since he's barely played this season.  The statistics are just abysmal, across the board.  32.9% shooting is a season-low, in a season featuring a whole lot of bad shooting.  Most disturbing of all, the Clippers were out-rebounded 48-38 by the worst rebounding team in the NBA.  Obviously the absences of Camby and Kaman have a huge impact there.  But it's still a very telling statistic against a poor rebounding team.

A five day break after a dismal pair of losses is hopefully exactly what the team needs.  It gives Camby a chance to take care of his issues and let's Randolph rest his knee, not to mention that Kaman has been targeting a post-Christmas return for weeks.  So maybe the team can come back on the 28th with a new sense of purpose.

On the other hand, for the virtual citizens of Clips Nation, this break is terrible timing.  We have to cope with the longest break of the season with a very bad taste in our mouths.