The Clippers blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead at home to a Phoenix Suns team playing without Steve Nash or Grant Hill. That is pretty much the textbook definition of an ugly loss.
The Clippers have had a number of losses lately, most accompanied by some poor end-of-game execution. Take the ball out Chris Paul’s hands at the end of games — as the Celtics did Monday night — and the Clippers do not quickly go to a counter like an experienced team. They just flounder. Then after the game coach Vinny Del Negro will talk about “flow” and “effort.”
There is something amiss. Which is why the Clippers met for an hour with the doors closed after an ugly loss to the Suns Thursday night. Fellow NDHS grad Arash Markazi wrote about it at ESPNLosAngeles.com:
“It was how we lost, it looked like we almost tried to lose the game,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “When you’re at home and you are where we are in the standings, you can’t lose games like that. There’s no way we should have lost that game. We had that game won.”
Several players stood up in the meetings and voiced their concern about issues on the court, ranging from defensive assignment to communication.
“It was very productive,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “It wasn’t a point the finger at somebody meeting, it was good. We got veterans in this locker room. I can’t say that it would have gone the same way last year. It wasn’t about guys getting their feelings hurt or guys trying to hurt people’s feelings. This is real. We got a good team and we got to do better.”
I still think the Clippers are now where the Thunder were a year or so ago — a good team learning how to win, how to be elite. This is part of that process, and like any growth process it’s not painless. They are going to be awkward and uncoordinated at times like a 15 year old who had a six-inch growth spurt. But they can get through this and be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.
Whether Vinny Del Negro is the coach who can lead them through it is another question altogether.