Clippers start four-game road trip in Orlando
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers attributed a puzzling loss to the NBA's "silly season," and Chris Paul felt losing a winnable game could be damaging.
They have another such contest to start a four-game trip Friday night when they face a struggling Orlando Magic team that continues to endure tough luck.
Los Angeles (32-17) had a four-game win streak snapped with Wednesday's 108-102 home loss to Minnesota, which had lost 12 straight on the road and 14 in a row in the series. The Timberwolves shot 50.6 percent, becoming the first team in seven games to make at least half of their shots against the Clippers.
"Yeah, they happen, they happen and this is the silly season, the four or five games before the All-Star break so we have to be careful with that," Rivers said.
The Clippers were assessed three technical fouls, with one on Paul and two that forced the ejection of Austin Rivers.
It was just their second loss since the beginning of December to a team which currently has a losing record.
"This was a must-win for us, like every night is, and this can't happen so as a captain that's on me," said Paul, who had a team-high 22 points.
"We're already without 32, without Blake (Griffin), so games like this, winnable games, we gotta win 'em."
Los Angeles fell to 15-4 since it last played with Griffin. Reserve Jamal Crawford scored 21 and DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 18 boards.
The Clippers next face an Orlando team that is 2-14 since the start of January, with no NBA team posting a worse record. That doesn't mean that the Magic (21-27) are pushovers.
They fell 117-114 at Oklahoma City on Wednesday after failing to score over the final 2:31 and losing on Kevin Durant's 3-pointer with a half-second left. That wasted Victor Oladipo's 37 points, one shy of his career best.
"It's just heart-breaking really, honestly," Oladipo said.
Orlando has lost 10 of 11 with three of those defeats in overtime and three others by seven points or fewer.
"Just because you go through the experience doesn't mean you learn," coach Scott Skiles said. "You hope you learn from it."
The Magic are allowing an average of 112.3 points in their last seven games, including 12 quarters in which they have given up at least 30. Their opponents in the last three games are averaging 33.0 first-quarter points.
"We've just gotta do a better job defensively, especially coming out in the first half, they were scoring at will at one point," Oladipo said.
One bright spot has been the recent production from rookie Mario Hezonja, who has posted efforts of 16 and 17 points within the last three games for his highest-scoring performances.
Hezonja did not see action the last time these teams met Dec. 5. Orlando blew a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter in a 103-101 road loss.
Crawford scored 16 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter that night while Paul sat out with a rib injury. Oladipo scored a team-high 24 in the Magic's fourth straight loss to L.A.