By Frank McLean
Sunday night the Los Angeles Clippers made their annual appearance in Toronto to face the Raptors, but watching this team, something just does not seem right.
Coming into the game both these teams held identical won-loss records of 28-15. The Raptors were on a seven game win streak sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference just two games back of first place Cleveland. The Clippers had only recently come off a 10 game winning streak and were fourth in the Western Conference 12 games back of the first place Golden State Warriors.
Since the Raptors beat the Clippers in Los Angeles on November 22, the Clippers have been on a 22-8 roll and they were 11-2 while missing the services of their big forward Blake Griffin.
That’s the weird stat, 11-2 without the guy that’s supposed to stir the drink.
There is no word yet when they will get Griffin back. Reports last week had him possibly coming back in time for the Raptors game.
Of course if you listen on line to sports radio from Los Angeles you hear Clipper fans calling in saying “let’s trade Griffin we don’t need him!”
You can understand their frustrations as many people the last couple of seasons have had this Clippers team as an NBA Championship contender only to see them make an early exit from the playoffs.
The Clippers lost in Toronto 112-94 to drop their record to 28-16 and 1-2 on their current 5 game road trip.
The Clippers starting five were not the problem. The Clippers actually had a 13 point lead 10 minutes into the first quarter, but their bench was not good as the Raptors bench outscored the Clippers reserves 51-29 and that’s why they were behind the eight ball the rest of the game.
After the game Clippers coach and GM Doc Rivers, who will always give you and honest answer about his team, did not sugar coat the Clippers performance from their bench.
“They were awful, I think that’s it. It is rare you lose by 18 points and your starters all have a plus. That doesn’t happen very often. Our bench has been good but tonight they were awful. We subbed out and it went back to -20. It was one of those nights.”
The starters were supporting their bench teammates as guard J.J. Redick stated.
“It’s a team sport. There are nights where our bench unit has been great and extended leads, and times where we’ve gone into the fourth up single digits and not had to play the fourth quarter, so they’ve done a great job for us lately and there’s going to be night’s like this. It just felt like one of those nights where none of them could really find that rhythm or fight to get that unit going.”
Watching the game I was thinking maybe the Raptors were exposing the Clippers weaknesses. Clippers guard Chris Paul may have hit the nail on the head with his post- game comments.
“I think they’ve just got a lot of guards that just break us down off the dribble. But we’ve got to figure it out because hopefully we meet them (in the playoffs) at some point. They are a tough team.”
The Clippers are fourth in the NBA in scoring averaging 105 points a night and since Christmas they have averaged 110.2 a night and that’s without their best player in Griffin.
Getting Griffin back will help as the guards will have someone they can get the ball to when they get held up on the dribble, but that’s just one player.
Coach Doc Rivers needs to have a heart to heart talk with Doc Rivers the GM about getting him some help that can make it easier to get the ball into the hands of Griffin, Paul Pearce and DeAndre Jordan who is better shooter from the field than at the free throw line.
The Clippers also need some help on the defensive front, another defender would help because if they get out of the first round they will probably have to beat San Antonio before they get a shot at Golden State and San Antonio is the only team in the West that really has a shot at knocking off the defending champions.
Some of these moves should have been done in the off season, but it may be a moot point because the Clippers just don’t look ready to play for a championship.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.
Something must really not be right with the Clippers as Blake Griffin got into an altercation with a team staffer at a Toronto restaurant and broke his hand. One has to wonder what the GM Rivers will have to say about that?