|CLIPPERS DROP THIRD GAME IN A ROW WITH ROAD LOSS TO HORNETS|
- RYAN MENEZES
The Clippers hit the road for three games in three nights and left with something that they have eluded all season: a three-game losing streak.
That came courtesy of a 97-90 defeat at the hands of the Hornets on Thursday night in New Orleans.
Despite holding a 13-point lead in the third quarter, the Clippers (26-21) let that lead slip away and could put up only 11 points in the fourth. The Hornets (12-35) ended the game on a 37-17 scoring run.
"I thought [the decline] started in the third quarter when we were fouling too much," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said "We gave them 34 free throws. We've got more field-goal attempts than they did, but we just kept fouling. They controlled the free-throw line, they got their rhythm. We missed some shots and we were chasing them a little bit at the end there."
Difference Maker: Before committing a hard foul on Blake Griffin that led to an automatic ejection and flagrant-2 violation, Hornets forward Jason Smith was having an efficient night for the Hornets during their big run to take back the lead. The Hornets' 7-foot center had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds.
Turning Point: Mo Williams took a seemingly harmless step to the ball, but came up limping early in the fourth quarter. He had to leave the court with assistance and would not return to the game after suffering a left big toe injury (X-rays taken during the game were negative and Williams is scheduled to have an MRI). New Orleans had already come back to pull within two, but immediately after Williams left the Hornets took their first lead of the game. The Clippers slump was compounded by a technical foul on Reggie Evans for arguing a non-call on his way down the court. The Hornets stretched the lead to six, and the Clippers would be within one possession only once more the rest of the night.
Turning Point 2: When Randy Foye came up with a steal with less than a minute left, he was near half court with nothing but open court in front of him. The Clippers were down just three (93-90) at the time, but Foye took a bad dribble and had to steady himself, slowing the fast break chance. The Clippers had to settle for a contested 3-pointer by Foye. The Hornets grabbed the rebound and sealed the win with free throws.
Stat Line of the Night: Going against his old mates, Hornets center Chris Kaman had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, easily making up for a seven-turnover night. He was 9-of-13 from the field.
More Stats: Blake Griffin had 21 points and 11 rebounds for his 29th double-double of the year. He once again had a tough time from the free-throw line, shooting 7-for-14.
Chris Paul had 16 points and nine assists in his return to New Orleans. Foul trouble (he finished with five) was an issue for Paul all night.
DeAndre Jordan followed up a solid showing in Oklahoma City by putting up 14 points and 9 rebounds against his former teammate Kaman.
Paul's return to NOLA: Paul got a personal video tribute played on the New Orleans Arena big screen to commemorate his six years as a Hornet. It was his first game in New Orleans since the December trade that sent him to the Clippers. “I’m so tuned into the game that I can’t really get into it," Paul said. "But, I’m greatly appreciative. This is my first home and these people are like my family.”
Hot: The Hornets from the free-throw line. The Clippers committed a litany of fouls in the third and fourth quarters and the Hornets were effective at making them pay, going 27-for-34 (74.9 percent). Jarrett Jack made all seven of his attempts.
On the Clippers play:
Del Negro: "We're taking too many plays off. We're always trying to make the home-run play instead of the smart, solid play. At the end there the ball didn't bounce the right way.
Paul: "We’ve been struggling. We were playing for two different things tonight. It was all about getting a win. I mean, we need a win to see what it feels like. We lost. It is what it is. We just didn’t make shots."
On the mind frame of the team:
Del Negro: "There's frustration, no question. But you've got to come ready to play every night and you can't take plays off."
Griffin: “We’re still behind [Coach Del Negro]. It’s not him. It’s on us. It’s on me. I have to find a way."
On the schedule:
Griffin: "We have to find a way to put the fun back in it like we had in the first however many games when we were just going out and playing. It didn’t matter if we were coming off three games in a row. It didn’t matter how many games in how many days. We just came out, played hard and won. Now, our schedule has been tough, but I’m not worried about that. Everybody’s played our schedule. This team is close. It might not always look like it, but we’re still close. We’ve just hit a rough patch. We’ve still got it.”
On the physical play:
Hornets head coach Monty Williams: "Although we certainly don’t teach or condone the flagrant fouls, I do understand in the heat of the moment things happen. We realized that we had to play a certain way and part of our defensive style is to not give up easy baskets and make people run through our chests.”
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