The Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Sacramento Kings for their fourth loss in a row. Repeat that statement to yourself and remember it is the year 2013. The Clippers are 46-22, fourth in the Western Conference, and have no real threat for their division crown in sight.
The loss against the Kings should be considered the worst loss of the year. It was a microcosm of the rocky Clippers’ second-half. It’s not enough that the Clippers have yet to beat a Western Conference contender (San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder) in the second-half, but now the Kings.
The same 24-44 team that has a coach with an ironic last name (Smart) and more distractions than NBA victories. To make matters worse, the Kings just got back center DeMarcus Cousins and guard Tyreke Evans. On paper, the lineup looks better — the Kings got a boost with their best players back, but it’s still an adjustment to plug in returning players for another lineup. The Clippers didn’t have Chauncey Billups for the remainder of the game due to injury or Eric Bledsoe available for the game, but Jamal Crawford returned and played well. There were no excuses for the Clippers on Tuesday night. They led by eight points early in the fourth quarter and should cruise by one of the worst teams in the NBA.
Unfortunately, the arena name, Sleep Train Arena, caught up with the Pacific Division leaders. The problems in the game did not start in the fourth quarter — they began from the first quarter. The Clippers were tied with the Kings, playing their speed and game, 23-23 and eventually lost the first half by two points. That, alone, is an embarrassment.
“It seems like every night teams shoot lights-out from the three on us,” Chris Paul said.
For last night, Paul has a point. The Kings shot 28 three-pointers and made half, which is an absurd percentage. But, in addition to how on-fire the Kings’ shooters were, the defense of the Clippers to close out on shooters was awful. The lack of composure on the defensive end led to a 38-18 fourth quarter in the Kings’ favor. That should never happen to a playoff contender against a team with no direction. It’s less the Kings’ record and staff and more on the Clippers’ passivity on defense. It’s 116 points to a team that only started their best point guard, Isaiah Thomas, after a platoon of Aaron Brooks and Jimmer Fredette (not a typo).
The Clippers need to group up and win the remaining games. They are getting to the point of must-win situations. Of course, no fan would complain about a fourth place finish into the playoffs, but the Clippers are a special team. This is a team that needs momentum. The Clippers are one of the few teams in the NBA with an inspired new culture; a different feel — a winning one.
They need to win going into the playoffs because this is the final guaranteed year of “Lob City,” with the impending free agency of Paul.