DALLAS – The Clippers now have their worst record to start a season since Blake Griffin’s rookie year. After another lackluster effort that saw the team go down by over 30 points in the first half and lose by 18.
Out of the gate, it looked much like the game Wednesday night against the Nets, with flow and pace to the offense. Kawhi Leonard finally got his touches in his spots and ended up scoring 12 in the first with ease, but the main story was James Harden.
After not looking to score much at all in the first two games, Harden scored 14 points on 100% FG and 100% free throws. He did not miss at all in any way he tried to score in the opening frame and looked like the prime version of Harden that we saw in Houston. However, after the Clippers held the lead after one, it was all downhill from there.
Then after a 31-19 lead, the Mavericks went on an absurd 37-6 run to completely switch the momentum and demeanor of the game. Ty Lue elected to play a four guard lineup at the end of the first quarter and that lineup got demolished on the boards and in transition.
At the half, the Mavericks led the Clippers 77-51 and Paul George didn’t even have a point, while James Harden didn’t have any points in the second quarter after a sensational first quarter.
The onslaught continued in the third as well, with the Mavericks building up an embarrassing 30-plus point lead which led to an early white flag by Ty Lue. The bench unit and two-way players entered the game and took over for a starting unit that just never got it going after the first half of the first quarter.
The Clippers are now 3-5.
Here are my three takeaways:
Let’s not sugarcoat it, the Clippers are a mess on both ends of the floor right now. I have mentioned the lack of continuity and hierarchy within the offense, but on Friday night, it seemed much worse on the defensive end. No matter who the Clippers threw at Luka Doncic, they could not stop him from scoring.
It wasn’t just Doncic, they could not get back to the perimeter to guard the three-pointer, they got beat on the boards, and just looked lethargic in transition. This is the worst energy and fight that I have seen from a Clipper team in about seven or eight years. For a team that touted themselves as hungry, motivated and hearing the noise against them, they are playing the complete opposite of their words.
When the lead got out of hand at the middle point of the third quarter, it was a surefire thing that the Clippers were going to be defeated. Ty Lue inserted the bench unit and two-way players into the game, some of whom rarely get playing time, and they performed admirably. The reason? Energy.
Most of the guys that played from that point of the third quarter on included Kobe Brown, the solid first round forward, Moussa Diabate, the energetic and springy center and Bones Hyland, the quick and shifty guard that has shown flashes of brilliance this year.
That unit of Hyland, Mann, Coffey, Brown, and Diabate cut the lead from over 30 points down to 14 at one point. They showed grit, communication, energy, and motivation, something that the starting unit has lacked in the past three games. I am looking forward to seeing some of those guys get a bigger role in the actual rotation, because they easily deserve it.
In the Western Conference, there are no teams that you can take a game or two off of. The Rockets have been playing great basketball, the Utah Jazz already beat the Clippers, and the Blazers have gotten their act together after a slow start. This team cannot afford to fall behind early in the season because you would just be looking at the same situation as last year, and I am 100% sure that no Clipper fan wants that for the second year in a row. The In-Season Tournament sure didn’t provide any extra juice for this team, so they have to again go deep within to find something to build on.
The Clippers are back home Sunday afternoon to take on the Memphis Grizzlies. Tip-off is set for 12:30 PM PST.