The Los Angeles Clippers had a different outcome envisioned for their nine-game homestand.
When they looked at their opponents for the stretch, they saw five gimmies — the Jazz, Knicks, Sixers, Lakers and Heat — and four challenging games against elite competition — the Warriors, Raptors, Hawks and Mavs.
All was going according to plan — the Clips had won the games they were supposed to, and split their games with contenders — until Sunday afternoon, when the Clips dropped a winnable game to the struggling Miami Heat, 104-90, and finished their homestand just 6-3.
"That’s not what we were expecting," Chris Paul said. "It is what it is. Now we have to go on the road, go to Portland — it’s a very tough place to play — and try to steal a win there. We were hoping to be a lot better on this homestand."
Before the game, head coach Doc Rivers said he was pleased with his team’s recent play, and that the "breakthrough" he was hoping for weeks prior didn’t necessarily need to materialize because of how well his team was already playing.
All of that went away after the midway point of the first quarter, with Miami going on a 37-12 run over the next 10 minutes after trailing 19-6 early on.
"This was a setback today," Rivers said.
Chris Paul (23 points, 9 assists), Blake Griffin (26 points) and J.J. Redick (14 points) showed up, but the rest of the team struggled, and the Heat used monster performances from Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to keep the Clips at bay for the rest of the game.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s contest:
Clippers surprised by Heat’s Whiteside in 104-90 loss
Had you ever heard of Hassan Whiteside before Sunday’s game? Chances are unless you’re a basketball junkie or Marshall University fan, you hadn’t. Well, now you have. Whiteside lit the Clips up with 23 points (10-of-13 shooting), 16 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He looked like an All-Star against DeAndre Jordan, using Jordan’s own tricks — putbacks, finishes off rolls to the rim — against him. Whiteside’s career game stole the show from Chris Bosh, who had his own impressive performance with 34 points and the game-clinching 3-pointer.
No-showing on the glass
DeAndre Jordan is the league’s leading rebounder, so it’s tough to fault him for a rare off-game. But when he’s struggling to grab boards, someone else has to step up — Blake Griffin, maybe? — and fill that void. Except no one did. Jordan and Griffin led the team with 6 rebounds each — which is embarrassing in and of itself — and the Clips were outrebounded 46-27 (15-6 on offensive rebounds) by a relatively undersized Heat squad. "They lived in the paint," Rivers said. "We really lacked energy. … It was one of those [days] we just didn’t have it."
The Clippers were too heated today. (Pun slightly intended.) Four players were called for technical fouls (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford), and there were several opportunities for the referees to call even more. The Clips have developed a reputation as a team that complains and displays negative body language, and Sunday’s game was one of the worst examples. "I don’t like the techs," Rivers said. "I thought they were quick techs for sure."
After all the pre-game talk of the team turning the corner with its recent "breakthrough," the Clips yet again reverted to a style of play that has often cost them this season. They were too reliant on Paul and Griffin to generate offense, they were lackadaisical in their defensive rotations and boxouts, and the bench was outscored 37-15. This is why the Clippers are so frustrating. There are times, like Saturday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, that they look like bona fide contenders. Then there are times, like Sunday, where they look a team with unfixable flaws. "Defensively we have to find a way to be more consistent," Paul said.
In his post-game media scrum, DeAndre Jordan subtly called out Clippers fans. "The past two games we had at home, and then today when we played on the road in Miami tonight, it was tough," Jordan said, insinuating that the presence of so many Heat fans made today’s contest feel like it was in Miami. Jordan continued: "We tried to come out today and get a road win. It just didn’t happen. … It would’ve been nice to get two victories in Miami this year." Several teams — the Bulls, Knicks and Lakers, among them — have had considerably louder presences than Clippers fans at times, and the team has apparently taken noticed.