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Orlando 125 - Clippers 96

Final - 2.4.2009 1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Clippers 22 26 23 25 96
Orlando Magic 34 38 32 21 125

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I've said on this blog that what matters at this point is the Clippers record in the final 29 games of the season, after the All Star break. I've said that there's really no reason to be in a hurry to make changes - that the team has the time to wait and see what happens when all of their top players are finally healthy at the same time. As such, I've told myself that there is not much reason to get very upset about the mounting losses before the ASB.

But all of that was before the Florida teams each shot 56% and outscored the Clippers by a cumulative 53 points.

The concept of 'quitting' on a coach is foreign and confusing to me. I mean, is it reasonable to go out onto the hardwood and play poorly, simply because you don't like your coach, or you don't agree with him, or whatever? Aren't there myriad other reasons to play hard? Like for instance, how it's your EFFING JOB, for which you are paid like a prince. Or maybe for your own sense of self worth and pride? Or how about for the fans who are paying to watch you? Wouldn't any one of those reasons supercede the feelings for a coach?

But while I find it to be a bizarre concept, there's little question that it happens. Just 4 seasons ago, the Nuggets were 13-15 for Jeff Bzdelik - and 32-8 for George Karl. Same team. The Grizzlies went 50-32 under Hubie Brown in 03-04, then opened the next season 5-7 before he was fired, and closed the season 40-26 under Mike Fratello. So there's plenty of evidence that teams quit on coaches.

And it sure seems like we're watching it with the Clippers.

There are several ironies here. For one thing, the Clippers have OVER-achieved when they have been missing their high-priced talent. In the 13 games they played without Baron Davis to open 2009, they were competitive in the first half of each and every game, and frequently competed into the fourth quarter before simply being overwhelmed by superior talent down the stretch. But in five games since Baron has returned, the been blown out of the building almost every time. And two of those games were against incredibly mediocre competition.

So what's happening? Is MDsr able to motivate the youngsters, but completely unable to control the stars? Is Baron actively sabotaging the team in an attempt to get a new coach? And why did the team appear to be fine for a few weeks in December, when they went 6-6 with essentially the same lineup that got embarrassed in the Magic Kingdom today? What has changed between then (when the team actually looked OK, if not great) and now (when they are, by far, without a doubt, the worst team in the league)?

And where is the outrage? Here's a quote from Baron after the game:

"We just ran into a team that was hungry. They are just a great team. They do what they are supposed to."

Um, no. That was not just a team that was better than the Clippers. That was not just a display of hot shooting. Orlando is good, and they were hot tonight, those things are true. But it was not just that. It was the Clippers not giving a flip.

Here's the more accurate quote, from journeyman point guard Anthony Johnson, latest in a long line of fringe NBA players to significantly outplay the Clippers vaunted $65M free agent:

The Clippers were allowing us wide-open jumpers. It's just a matter of stepping into them. ... It made it very easy for myself to step into wide-open shots and knock them down.

If his mother raised him right, he'll be sending Baron and the entire team a thank you card.