No moral victories in Clippers’ loss to Pacers
LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul has no interest in silver linings. A good loss is still a loss.
But with the Clippers embarking on a seven-game, 14-day trip that starts Wednesday in Atlanta, they should still look at the bright side.
They almost beat the red-hot Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon but lost 105-100, despite losing guard J.J. Redick for 6-8 weeks with a broken hand and playing without reserve forward Matt Barnes, who is sidelined following eye surgery. Paul was back in the lineup after sitting Friday night at Sacramento with a strained right hamstring.
They came back twice against the Pacers, once from 11 points down in the first quarter and again from 14 points down in the third, but Paul missed two 15-footers in the final 1 minute, 35 seconds that would have tied the game.
In other words, they had chances to beat a team that is off to a dazzling 16-1 start.
“It’s a loss,” Paul said. “They didn’t care who was out or how healthy I was. We put ourselves in a position to win the game. I had two great looks down at the end. I make one of those and we tie the game up and put some pressure on them, and we didn’t — or I didn’t.”
And that kind of ending just didn’t sit well with anyone.
“What I’m taking out of this game is that we can play with anybody,” coach Doc Rivers said. “But I’m not taking a moral victory. We lost the game.”
They won’t carry the burden for too long. After playing the Hawks, the Clippers make stops in Memphis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn and Washington. None of those teams has a winning record; only Atlanta and Memphis are playing .500.
“Big, big road trip for us,” Paul said. “We can learn a lot about ourselves, how we approach each game. Not thinking about the next one, always thinking about the first one. I always say you can’t win them all without winning the first one.”
But proceeding without Redick, who is expected to be out 6-8 weeks, is not going to be easy. His outside shooting and movement without the ball allow the Clippers to spread the court and free Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for inside baskets. Rivers started Willie Green at shooting guard Sunday, preferring to keep Jamal Crawford and his scoring punch coming off the bench.
“It’s going to take some getting used to,” Crawford said, speaking about the loss of Redick. “Obviously, J.J. has been having a great season. I’ve said time and time again that he’s one of the better starting (shooting) guards in the league, and we have a flow within that starting unite.”
Redick’s offense could have been a large help Sunday when the Clippers started slowly and didn’t get back in the game until their reserves gave them the energy they needed. But the only time the Clippers led was in the final minutes of the first half when Griffin’s slam dunk gave them a 43-41 edge.
Paul had 17 points and 10 assists in 34 minutes and dismissed any questions about his condition. He left the court at one point in the second half and came back with ice taped to his hamstring.
“I was cool,” he said.
The Clippers, though, had trouble stopping Indiana’s Paul George, who had 27 points and five assists, and couldn’t keep the Pacers from getting offensive rebounds, especially at the end.
After Paul’s second miss, which would have tied the game at 102-102, the Pacers were able to keep the ball at their end when George missed and they got several offensive tips.
“They came in with a purpose,” Rivers said. “This was the first game on their west coast trip, and you could see their seriousness at the beginning of the game. They were locked in and we were not. We tried to get into it. We tried to score and we had a chance to win the game.”
The fact they didn’t soured the rest of the day. But it shouldn’t affect what they do on their upcoming trip.