Five take aways from last night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors

Feb 1, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) is fouled on his way up to the basket by Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Clippers 98-73. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last night’s contest against the Toronto Raptors was the Clippers worse loss since Chris Paul arrived last season. How bad was it? Let me count the ways…

Toronto brought the rukus to the Clippers

The Clippers looked tired, lethargic, out of sync, and it showed in every facet of the contest. Toronto, by contrast, was welcoming new addition Rudy Gay to their lineup and were “locked and loaded,” as their Coach said afterward. Their sellout crowd was fired up and the Grizzlies didn’t disappoint. Gay scored 20 points in his debut, Amir Johnson had 19, the Raptors scored baskets in every way imaginable (by the 4th quarter is was a layup drill), and defended with energy and heart. The Clipper players, albeit without Matt Barnes (suspended for a shove on Greg Stiemsma on Friday), seemed lost on defensive rotations and allowed open looks for John Lucas (17 points) and Demar DeRozan (19 points), then watched as Aaron Gray shoved them around for 12 rebounds. For the game, the Clippers shot a season low 34% and scored their lowest total points. In summary, a disaster in just about every category, and Caron Butler added insult to injury when he pulled a bush league move with only a few seconds left, stealing the ball on a fake high-five and driving for a layup (see video below). Come on, Caron, this ain’t Venice Beach.

Chris Paul is needed back – NOW.

The Clippers have managed to stay at sea level with their superstar absent, but without Chauncey Billups or any semblance of consistent point guard play beyond backup Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers offense sputters. Bledsoe, let’s face it, just can’t shoot with any consistency – even layups – and this allows teams to ignore him when it comes to offensive production. Defenses now simply let him shoot from outside and will live with the occasional make – Bledsoe was 4-14 (0-3 from 3-point range) – while instead double-teaming everyone else. Blake Griffin saw triple teams down low, while Jamal Crawford was harassed into 5-17 shooting by constant double-teams. Things got even worse when Bledsoe sat, as Jamal Crawford and a committee of ball handlers was forced into service. Grant Hill, Willie Green, and even Griffin had to bring the ball up court, which resulted in a high number of turnovers and bad passes. If Paul doesn’t return soon, we can expect more losses like this – especially to elite teams like San Antonio, Miami, and OKC.

Griffin is hurting.

Sure, Griffin has been turning in monster games the last week-plus; however, you can see his lack of explosiveness on fast breaks and his leaping ability is hindered by the ankle sprain he suffered a few games back against the Phoenix Suns. Blake is fighting through the injury like the warrior he is, but he’ll need other teammates to step up their efforts to compensate if the injury continues to affect him.

DeAndre Jordan should be playing more.

Only two Clippers players shot better than 50% against the Raptors – Lamar Odom (more on Lamar in a minute) and DeAndre Jordan. Jordan scored 8 points on 4-6 shooting in a scant 26 minutes and it’s the opinion of this writer that coach Vinnie Del Negro needs to stop playing it safe and give DeAndre a larger role. Yes, his free throw shooting can be horrendous, but so is Dwight Howard’s and the Lakers continue to play HIM big minutes and keep him in at the end of games. DeAndre has made huge strides this year and is the most athletic center in the entire league (YouTube some highlights for proof). When the Clippers fell behind by 25 points, DeAndre could’ve been in there and used as a primary post-up scoring option. Heck, he only had three fouls, why not ride him until he either fouls out or the final buzzer? Either way the score wouldn’t have changed much, no?

Time for Lamar Odom to take command of the second unit.

Two years ago, Lamar was voted 6th Man of the Year. He knows how to run a second unit, can play every position, and is experienced in pressure situations. Last night, he took one shot – ONE – and made it. Coach Del Negro has been saying to everyone who will listen that Odom should shoot more and the time for him to do so is NOW. Odom is probably the 3rd smartest basketball player on the team behind Paul and Billups, and during the Laker’s championship runs he had an uncanny knack for making key shots, grabbing timely rebounds, and keeping the bench unit running smoothly. This is exactly why he was signed as a Clipper and in this important road stretch he needs to gather his fellow bench players and lead as Paul does with the starters.

Topics: Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers, Lamar Odom, Lob City, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Clippers, Matt Barnes, NBA, Vinny Del Negro

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