The teams with the two longest losing streaks in the NBA clashed in Charlotte tonight, and the Clippers came out on bottom.
The Hornets managed to give their visitors an 8th consecutive loss while breaking a six-game losing streak of their own, led by Kemba Walker’s 26 points and a 16-point, 16-rebound performance by Dwight Howard. Nicolas Batum also made timely plays, finishing with 12 points and 7 assists, and Jeremy Lamb lifted Charlotte’s second unit with 17 points off of the bench.
For the Clippers, the game was relatively close through three quarters, but their fourth-quarter offense sputtered and they only managed 16 points in the final frame. Blake Griffin had 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, but struggled for much of the night on 6-17 shooting and looked visibly frustrated as the defense was able to heavily focus on him due to the absence of Clippers starters point guard Patrick Beverley, shooting guard Milos Teodosic, and small forward Danilo Gallinari.
The only other especially notable Clipper was Lou Williams, who added 25 points and 4 assists on 10-17 from the field, doing his best to provide LAC with the spark they needed to snap their losing streak. Ultimately, poor performances from other Clippers (Austin Rivers had 9 points on a poor 3-14 shooting performance, while Wesley Johnson shot 4-11 from the field and Willie Reed’s poor decision-making caused him to be benched for Montrezl Harrell after just 4 minutes) and a relatively invisible night from DeAndre Jordan left the Clippers well short of the offensive output necessary to win any NBA game.
With Beverley, Teodosic, and Gallinari out, the Clippers have extremely limited offensive weapons and can’t afford poor nights from normal rotation players like Rivers and Johnson—it isn’t reasonable to expect players like Sindarius Thornwell, Jawun Evans, and C.J. Williams to provide major offensive sparks.
Ultimately, while it stings to continue losing night after night, it’s hard to point to any significant change that the Clippers could make to change their fortunes. Austin Rivers has been poor as of late, but he’s also been slotted into a role which exposes his flaws—and Doc Rivers doesn’t have other options except to insert Lou Williams into the starting lineup, depriving the bench of any offense whatsoever. Sindarius Thornwell and Wesley Johnson have both made positive contributions this season, but neither is really close to being a starting-caliber NBA player. It isn’t much of a shock that the Clippers continue to lose when these are the players available to Doc.
Two silver linings:
- Both teams were on massive losing streaks, and both teams were on the second game of a back-to-back after rough losses last night. It could have easily been a horribly sloppy and unentertaining game—and while it was no masterpiece, at least the first three quarters made for some enjoyable viewing.
- Sam Dekker quietly had the best stretch I can remember of his short Clipper career, making a really positive contribution in the second quarter to help the Clippers’ bench keep the game close. He finished the game with 5 points and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes—far from stellar, but resembling the rotation player that he should be in a way that his recent performances have not.