Griffin: This Is Where You See What Your Team’s Made Of
INDIANAPOLIS – DeAndre Jordan didn’t recognize the doppelgangers dressed in black tossing out turnovers, settling for jumpers, allowing easy looks and playing without the emotion and intensity he’s come to expect from the Clippers, as they suffered their worst loss of the year Sunday night.
In their previous three losses this year, Jordan might be able to pick out positives from each. But a 91-70 loss to the Pacers, sending the Clippers (14-4) on a two-game losing streak for the first time this season, provided an exception.
“I’m ready to get out of here,” Jordan said afterward. “It wasn’t fun. First quarter, we had a lot of turnovers…a lot of unforced turnovers. We just were careless with the ball, all five of us out there.”
Anyone watching the Clippers early this season wouldn’t have recognized a group Sunday committing 11 turnovers in the first quarter on their way to a season-high 20 in the game; making a season-low 22 shots while shooting a season-low 31.4 percent from the floor; and allowing 13 offensive rebounds, while getting outrebounded by 12 to a shorthanded Pacers team playing without Paul George.
In the beginning, Jordan credited the Clippers' defense for still trailing by just three points after the first quarter despite the struggles.
“After that, I don’t know who was out there,” Jordan said.
It didn’t seem like a Clippers group annihilating its opponents on its way to a 14-2 start. The Pacers continued to extend their lead Sunday night – by 10 at the half, by 18 after three quarters and by 21 by game’s end.
Throughout the year, the Clippers had largely persevered through brief stretches of poor play, long before deficits became insurmountable. On the rare occasions where those stretches occurred for an entire quarter, or an entire half, they’d often respond by doing what they did in their previous game against Detroit, overcoming an early 18-point deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead despite eventually losing that game.
After that loss, with a day off in Indianapolis before playing the Pacers, head coach Doc Rivers gathered his team for a light practice to address the defensive slippage he’d seen in recent games. But it was essentially a walkthrough, difficult to know whether or not problems would be fixed for a group that led the league in defense the majority of the year and consistently vaulted up its way up the offensive charts.
Unfortunately, neither the starters nor the backups answered with the type of play the Clippers have relied on the majority of the year.
“It was the entire group tonight, and that’s something that hasn’t happened,” Rivers said. “We’ve got a day to get it right, but the last two games – really the last four to me, even though we had a blowout one – we just haven’t played great. So, we’ve got to get it back.”
The Clippers haven’t been the type of team to get outshot by 20 at the half, the way they did Sunday – a stat nearly every player knew by heart – nor have they been the type of team to settle for jump shots all night, the way Rivers thought the Clippers did, citing how they only got into the paint five times in the first half.
Admittedly, Blake Griffin said, it looked sloppy.
“I think lack of rest, lack of practice attributed to it, but I think lack of concentration is also a factor,” Griffin said. “Last two games, teams have just kind of done what they wanted to do. We haven’t instigated.”
In jumping out to the NBA's best record, the Clippers had been the type of team to instigate. They moved the ball quickly and efficiently, finding open shooters and vaulting into the top three in offense and 3-point percentage. They’d been the type of team to frustrate opponents with such stifling defense games were often over by halftime, forcing turnovers and taking them the other way, rather than the other way around.
They were so good defensively early on that even with the recent slippage, they still find themselves in the league’s top three defenses. And now that they’ve faced adversity, Griffin said this next stretch will be telling.
“This is where you see what you’re team’s really made of – when you have a bad stretch, have a bad couple games,” Griffin said. “We’ve got to stay positive and remember what made us successful and stick to that.”
Griffin said it’s about digesting the loss, watching film from it and moving on. Chris Paul said it’s time to fix it, sweep it under the rug and stop the bleeding. Jordan said the Clippers need to figure it out, “man up” and play with pride and emotion, adding that an uptick in effort needs to start with him, since he’s relied upon to bring energy.
With another game Tuesday – the fourth of a six-game road trip – and no breaks in sight, the Clippers know they don’t have a choice but to look forward if they want to do all the above.
“Every team goes through slumps and rough patches,” Jordan said. “We just can’t let it affect us for too long. We’ve got to figure out a way to get out of it.”