The Los Angeles Clippers' surprising 4-0 start to the season is just a memory.
Looking to avoid their sixth loss in eight games, the Clippers meet the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on Saturday night.
Los Angeles (6-5) and New Orleans (9-5) split four games last season with each winning one on the road. The Hornets' 86-83 road victory on April 18 snapped a five-game skid on the Clippers' home court in the league's final game last season.
Playing without forward Elton Brand (ruptured left Achilles tendon) and guard Shaun Livingston (torn knee ligaments), who are expected to miss much of this season, the Clippers averaged a shocking 109.0 points per game as they got off to their best start since 1985-86.
Since then, though, Los Angeles has gone 2-5 and averaged only 90.1 points.
Three losses during Los Angeles' current tailspin have been by at least 19 points, including a 113-94 defeat at Phoenix on Friday. Sam Cassell led the Clippers with 26 points, but sat out all of the fourth quarter - a move coach Mike Dunleavy had an explanation for.
"He played great," Dunleavy said, "but when they jumped out on us, we play tomorrow night in back-to-back games, I just felt like I didn't want to take any more of his legs."
The 38-year-old Cassell wasn't happy with his coach's strategy, but seemed to accept it.
"I don't dictate plans around here," he said. "The only thing I dictate I do on the court. I was sitting there like you guys, I can't do nothing. But it is what it is. We move on to the next game."
Cassell averaged more than 36 minutes and 22.0 points in the first two games against the Hornets last season, but missed a 103-100 loss on April 10 with back spasms and had 14 points in just over 14 minutes during the season finale.
Chris Kaman had his second straight double-double with 17 points and 14 boards against the Suns. He averaged only 7.3 points and 8.5 rebounds last season against the Hornets, which have dropped a season-high three straight.
New Orleans (9-5) will have to quickly shake off their worst game of the season, a 99-71 loss to Utah on Friday. The 71 points were a season low for New Orleans, which shot 1-of-17 from 3-point range.
"If you're not making shots from the outside, then they aren't going to give you anything on the interior. They are just too relentless," said David West, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets.
A bigger concern for New Orleans may be its overall shooting - which has gotten progressively worse with each loss during its skid. The Hornets shot 43.4 percent from the field in a seven-point loss to Orlando on Monday, followed by 39.1 percent in a 12-point defeat to Indiana two nights later and capped by a season-low 32.9 percent in the loss to the Jazz.
Chris Paul had 15 points and six assists in just his second game back after missing two with an injured right ankle. He was averaging 19.5 points and a league-leading 10.8 assists before his latest injury.
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