Tonight’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was devastating. More than Saturday’s loss to shot-happy Golden State, this one hurts. A lot. You can scan the stat lines all you want, but I’m going to write more about how this game felt.
I was with my son at Staples last season when the Clippers played Houston. It was an exhilarating experience, one in which the Clippers fell behind, clawed back in the fourth quarter, then let Chris Paul take over to win in the final seconds with a gritty performance often put forth by a certain player on the other Staples Center tea,. We left completely exhausted from the experience – drained emotionally (and physically) – yet ready to repeat the performance again and again as the Clippers grew into their unfamiliar role as a playoff team with potential. Sure, they eventually went down under a of San Antonio precision; however, this was completely new territory and we forgave them in our gratitude that they finally mattered.
This year, this game, was supposed to be different. After beating their tormenting thugs from Memphis, then leveling the chic NBA Finals pick Lakers in their second outing, it was time to… believe. I could even forgive the lackluster effort against Golden State on Saturday night; hell, the Warriors were raining down shots as if blindfolded and our team was tired. Even still, the Clippers almost pulled a win from this sloppy affair before a questionable offensive foul on Paul took away the tying free throws at the end. Monday night’s game, though, was an entirely different beast. A young, hungry team ran us out of our building for a second straight outing. Back were the defensive lapses that allowed uncontested 3’s from all over the floor (from players I dare anyone to name off the top of their heads who aren’t Kyrie Irving) and Cleveland repeatedly scored on second and third chance opportunities. Anderson Varejeao pushed Diondre Jordan and the rest of our team out of rebounding position, Blake Griffin was shooting jump shots (and missing them), and Caron Butler couldn’t buy a basket in the second half. CP3 even managed to commit some costly late turnovers. After starting off with a 7-0 lead and looking like they were going to run away with an easy win, the Clippers managed to once again play down to an over matched opponent, get run into circles, and now stumble out to face the San Antonio Spurs with a real threat of being under .500 late Wednesday evening. If the Lakers win in Utah on Tuesday, we’re back to 0-0 in the division. Heck, we could be in last place by the end of this week!
This is why I’m despondent tonight. Sure, after following the Clippers for the last thirty years I’ve known plenty of worse times with this organization. I have to believe they’ll regroup, fight harder, and find ways to solve the defensive problems that have followed them through the off season and returned for an encore. But I tasted the delicious fruit of talking smack in the middle of a bunch of obnoxious Laker fans a few days ago. I expected so much more, which makes it all the more painful to face the prospect that my Laker friends may have the last laugh after all.