Rapid Reaction: Magic 98, Clippers 90
November, 6, 2013
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Clippers looked like a team on vacation during the first half of Wednesday's 98-90 loss to the Orlando Magic.
Many of their shots were short, they missed all eight of their 3-point attempts and committed 10 turnovers. The sloppy play continued into the third quarter, when they fell behind by as many as 19 points and looked like a team that had fallen into its first trap game of the season.
And then the shots kept falling and falling and falling some more. The Clippers went on a 29-5 run and started playing like the highest-scoring team in the NBA. But the problem for the Clippers this season hasn't been scoring; it has been getting stops. In addition to being the highest-scoring team in the league, the Clippers also give up the most points per game, and in the end that finally caught up to them.
The Clippers could be excused if they felt as if they were on vacation to start their three-game trip, as it started unlike any other trip the Clippers will have this season.
On Tuesday night, the team gathered at coach Doc Rivers' home in Winter Park, Fla., where his family hosted a team dinner that ended up going late as many players stayed to watch games on television. Rivers had the dinner planned before the season as another way for the team to bond and get to know one another with a new coaching staff and half a new roster.
"Any chance you get. You try," Rivers said. "You don't make it too formal. Last night all the guys came and ate and talked. Guys ate at different tables and it was fun. Some of the guys stayed later because when you're on the road you can't watch NBA TV and some of the guys went up to the family room and watched games all night because they wanted to see the other games."
Rivers is not a fortune-teller, but when he was asked before the game about his defense, which is giving up a league-high 112.5 points per game, he said he could see signs of them getting better and would be tested in a game like they would on Wednesday.
"I know our defense is going to come," Rivers said. "You can see it in spurts. We're going to have a game where it's 86-85 and we're going to have to defend. We are getting timely stops. We're going to get it."
The problem is they didn't get timely stops in Orlando and still haven't gotten it yet.
How it happened: The Clippers fell behind early, trailing by 15 at the half before waking up and playing like a team that realized its trip had indeed started. The Clippers went on a 29-5 run to take the lead before the Magic reclaimed it and pulled away for the win.
What it means: Players and coaches continue to say how far the Clippers have to go to become a contender and Wednesday night was a perfect example. After storming back from a 19-point deficit in the third to take the lead, the Clippers were unable to seal the deal.
Hits: Blake Griffin had his third 20-10 game in his last four contests, finishing with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Just as impressive for Griffin was hitting a pair of big jumpers late in the game.
Chris Paul had 18 points and 10 assists, continuing his MVP-caliber season. DeAndre Jordan struggled on offense, but he did finish with 19 rebounds and four blocked shots to go along with nine points.
Misses: The team's effort through the first two and half quarters of the game was a big miss, as was its inability to hit anything from 3-point range for much of the game.
It was also a tough night for the Clippers bench, as Byron Mullens, Darren Collison and Willie Green went a combined 0-for-10 from the field, leaving Jamal Crawford to again carry the load for the second unit. The group will be without Matt Barnes for a couple of games as he is sidelined because of a right thigh bruise.
Stat of the game: The Clippers shot 15.8 percent from beyond the arc Wednesday, hitting just 3-of-19 attempts. For a team that loves to shoot the 3-ball as much as the Clippers do, they're going to have a tough time winning any time they're shooting that poorly from beyond the arc.
Up next: Back-to-backs are never easy, but playing the Miami Heat on the second night of one is a tall task the Clippers will take on Thursday night as they travel to South Florida. The game could be a preview of the NBA Finals if the Heat are able to return to their fourth straight Finals and the Clippers live up to preseason predictions and are able to advance to their first.