Realistically, the Clippers weren't going to win this game. It would have completely shocked me. On the back end of a back to back, after losing the first game in disheartening fashion while every key player logged huge minutes, without their leading scorer on the day when they found out that the cavalry is not on it's way, they weren't going to win. The fact that the Hornets, for whatever reason, also seem to have their number, was just one more damn thing.
The Hornets have now beaten the Clippers twelve straight times. I guess it's not that shocking that the Hornets swept the season series the last two years, while they were flying high and the Clippers were dealing with injuries on their way to 22 and 19 wins. But this season? It makes no sense. And more painful still are the two games in April 2007 that started the current streak - in the final eight days of the season, the Clippers lost to the Hornets twice, and the Clippers missed the playoffs by two games.
The most amazing stat about the Hornets wins over LA this season is something I did not realize until Milph said it during the broadcast. The Hornets now have only two double digit wins this season - both of them over the Clippers (by 28 in LA and by 14 tonight). They can't blow out ANYONE. But they can't NOT blow out the Clippers. In three games, their average margin of victory is 17.
I'm going to make a confession - I only watched the fourth quarter. So I missed the Clippers hanging close in the first half. I just got to see the painful denouement. Peja Stojakovic seems to embody the New Orleans spell over the Clippers. It doesn't matter how mediocre he is the rest of the season, it doesn't matter how old and slow and finished he seems against every other team - when he plays the Clippers, he can't miss. When he calmly launched a shot from about 32 feet with 10 seconds on the shot clock, which of course went in, on the Hornets third possession of the fourth quarter, I knew the game was over. It's difficult to defend a guy who is willing to just shoot from further away from the basket than you are willing to go.
I don't really have much to say about this game. I expected them to lose; they lost; there are bigger concerns right now regardless. The Clippers rebounded well (more to the point, Marcus Camby rebounded well). The Clippers took good care of the ball after the first quarter (they committed 8 turnovers in the first quarter, 2 the rest of the game). Honestly, if you'd told me that the Clippers would be behind by 2 after the first period, dominate the boards and commit two more turnovers the rest of the way, I'd have said it would be hard to lose that game. Turns out, not that hard after all. The problem? LA couldn't shoot. The cold Memphis air that infected them Tuesday night followed them to New Orleans. They shot just over 40% overall, and 7% (that's a single digit, folks) from deep. Eric Gordon went 1 for 14 on threes during this trip, including 0 for 7 tonight.
It's a little like the "tree falls in the forest" conundrum. If a basketball team has no inside scoring, and can't make a shot from outside, does it make a sound?
So the outcome of this one was a foregone conclusion, and the motivated Lakers await Friday, likely with Pau Gasol back in the lineup. It's time to regroup - and fast.