When we last checked in on the Los Angeles Clippers, they had just dropped a game to the Denver Nuggets and were settling into their usual pre-playoff slump. They followed that loss with three straight wins, albeit against a Big Three-less Cleveland Cavs, the tanking Los Angeles Lakers, and the dysfunctional New York Knicks. Then came a bad loss to the Dallas Mavericks, a decent win over the Utah Jazz, and yesterday’s complete unraveling against the Sacramento Kings.
The Clippers entered the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game up 76-65, and by the time there was five minutes left on the clock, the lead had ballooned to 94-76. Doc Rivers had his starters on the bench, and it looked like the Clips were set to cruise to the kind of blowout win over a shitty team that typifies March NBA action.
Then everything went wrong. The Kings proceeded to go on 9-1 run to make the game 95-85 with three minutes to play, and Rivers had to put his starters back into the game. The only thing more embarrassing than having to go back to your starters to try and rescue what should have been an easy win? Those starters coughing it up. The Kings, who are lousy, just kept coming, and by the time their 22-3 run was over, the Clippers had lost 98-97.
It’s not a stretch to say that this was the worst loss of the Clippers’ season, and Chris Paul took his assessment one step further, calling it the worst regular-season loss of his career:
If the level of a person’s hat brim is any indicator of their emotional well-being—and it is—Chris Paul is in a pretty bad place right now.
So are the Clippers. This team is now 9-10 since the All-Star break, and their defensive rating is 108.6 during that period, a mark that would put them in the bottom five of the league over the course of a whole season. They’ve still got a three-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for the five seed in the West, but it’s hard to count on a team that has four quality wins since the break holding onto that lead.
Whatever seed the Clippers end up with probably won’t matter much, anyway. This is a team that’s specialized in disappointing playoff exits over the last few seasons, and if this year is different it will probably just be because no one will have their hopes up about these bozos in the first place.