The Clippers’ loss to the Cavaliers is not inexcusable, even with the game at Staples Center and young Cleveland playing for the third time in three cities over four nights. That flammable Kyrie Irving–Dion Waiters backcourt is going to turn a lot of opponents into scorched Earth.
The inconsistent early-season energy of the Clippers is inexcusable. A veteran roster, an envious level of leadership with Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, several nonstop workers around them and the emotional catapult of imposing their will on the Lakers in the season-opener. Yet here they are, 2-2, with the real schedule challenge ahead.
The Clippers went promising after beating the Grizzlies by nine and the Lakers by 10 to losing to the Warriors by four with Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back. Andrew Bogut was held out to help his recovering ankle, and Stephen Curry missed 10 of 16 shots while totaling more turnovers than assists. That was a giveback. Wasting the chance to respond against the Cavaliers, that was bad.
A superior team locked in, as the Clippers should have been coming off the Warriors defeat, would have stepped on Cleveland. Yet on Monday, the Cavs scored 31 points in the opening quarter, had 84 after three periods and went on to a 108-101 victory. The visitors were not even especially sharp — 43.5-percent shooting and 19 turnovers – and L.A. still couldn’t keep up.
The Clippers energy was not the same the last two games as the first two, and there is no reason for that to happen so early, long before the mind gets challenged by the long NBA schedule. Bad games happen. But to not seize when a lottery-team-in-waiting arrives on their doorstep is a sign the Clips are not focused to start the season.
“This is our job to come out here and play, so we have to have that energy,” Paul told Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. “We have to come out ready to play and perform better than that.”
“We have to do it, it’s as simple as that,” center DeAndre Jordan added. “We can’t keep talking about it. We can’t have too many excuses.”
Now, they have to “do it” while maneuvering a difficult schedule. Wednesday is the start of an eight-game run that includes the Spurs twice, Heat, Bulls, Thunder and Nets, along with a San Antonio-at Portland back-to-back. That takes the Clippers to late-November, when Billups hopes to be close to returning from his Achilles’ injury. He’ll be boost for the lineup, but also at least a brief transition. Hill will need to work in at some point as well, though no timetable has been set for his L.A. debut after a bruised knee sent him to the sideline.