The excuses are being eliminated, but the ugly losses continue to pile up - like for instance 119-95 against the Heat. Baron Davis and Marcus Camby have been back for four games - the rust should be off, right? Ricky Davis has been back for even longer. Zach Randolph would actually have an excuse for being rusty or out of shape - but he was the only Clipper to play well in this game, scoring 21 points in 26 minutes. Yes, Chris Kaman remains out, but there's a difference between missing one key player and missing four key players. The Clippers had a legitimate excuse for most of January. Now they need to perform.
The irony is that the $11M Clippers were more competitive than the well-paid team that lost to the Heat tonight. Or the one that stunk up Washington DC on Saturday against the Wizards, the erstwhile worst team in the NBA. Or the one that lost in LA against a terrible Bulls team. The simple fact is, the Clippers have been horrendously bad in three of the four games since they started to get healthy. Go figure.
Of course, it's hard to explain why Al Thornton would completely disappear once Baron and Camby returned. In the last four games, Al is 17 for 59, including 4 for 17 in this one. Meanwhile, the newly christened NBA Rookie of the Month had an almost equally terrible game, going 3 for 10 - a meaningless late three made it a little more respectable, and kept EJ's streak of double digit games alive. But EJ and AT did nothing tonight to justify their selection for the Rookies versus Sophomores game, that's for sure.
Thornton, Gordon and Baron Davis (3 for 11) combined to shoot 10 for 38. The rest of the team actually shot really well: 25 for 43. But offense was not in fact the culprit in this game. The Clipper defense allowed the Heat to shoot almost 56%, and 9 for 16 from behind the arc. The Heat's effective field goal percentage was 61%. You can't win allowing teams to shoot 61%.
It was bad.
A few other thoughts.
- Ralph and Mike spent some time on the subject, but it's interesting. How does Mario Chalmers make it to the second round? I mean, scouts get the draft wrong all the time. But what can this guy not do? He's got good size, long arms, he's quick, he can shoot, he can penetrate. It's somewhat understandable when a guy like Paul Millsap drops into the second round - he's playing at Lousiana Tech, against second tier competition - teams are going to be leery of his gaudy college numbers. But Mario Chalmers won a National Championship at Kansas and was the MOP of the Final Four. He wasn't exactly under the radar.
- Jason Hart had one of the more interesting box score lines of all time. He came into the game with 21 seconds left in the first quarter, since Baron and EJ both had 2 fouls. The Heat got a a layup from Haslem, after which Brian Skinner decided to inbound the ball to Chris Quinn who made a jumper - Skinner getting an assist. Hart's line - 0 minutes, a +/- of negative 4.
- Speaking of +/-, I'm not a huge believer, but there's a really distinct number in this box score. In a game the Clippers lost by 24, Marcus Camby was +3 in 26 minutes on the floor. Which translates to minus 27 in the 22 minutes when he was off the floor. He may be important.
- Speaking of those 4 Miami points in the final 21 seconds of the first quarter, the Clippers were at their worst closing quarters tonight. They would have been tied instead of down 17 after three if they hadn't given up big runs to finish every quarter.
- That's now two straight games where my choice for Superstar for one game was correct. Michael Beasley scored 18 on 7 for 12 shooting. He's got some serious skills and he's going to be a big time scorer. The bad news is that if I've lost my reverse mojo that allows me to take one player out of every game for the competition, the Clippers may never win again.
There is some good news. As the Clippers descend to the depths of the league, Clips Nation is thriving. The site had over 70,000 page views in January, which was the most ever for any month where they don't sign Baron Davis and lose Elton Brand. In January of 2008, the site had fewer than 30,000 page views. So that's a pretty nice increase in a year - a year in which the Clippers have been brutally bad.
We also had a Clips Nation record on the game thread tonight - about 370 comments during the game. Imagine how much fun it would be if we were watching a game in which the Clippers didn't stink. A man can dream. By the way, I'm still looking for volunteers to host game threads the rest of the week. See the FanPost for details.
So evidently misery does love company.