The Los Angeles Clippers headed into Christmas lamenting a second-half collapse at the start of a five-game road trip.
They’ll aim for a more complete performance on Monday when they visit the Detroit Pistons, the team with the league’s worst record.
Los Angeles led by as much as 20 in the early going and 12 at halftime against Philadelphia. The Clippers gave up 68 second-half points in the 119-114 loss on Friday. Prior to the trip, the Clippers had won five of their last six games.
“We had our chances, we just didn’t play smart the whole game,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “When we got up we made some key mistakes and some bad plays.”
The star forward duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 50 points, but the other starters contributed just 22. Except for Norman Powell (21 points), the bench wasn’t productive, either.
“It’s good that when we get it rolling to see what it really looks like,” guard Reggie Jackson said. “That’s reassuring, that sticks with me, for sure, but just the way that we keep having these lulls at times, too long of lulls — you’re going to have some throughout the game but we’ve got to find a way to nip it in the bud as soon as possible.”
Defensively, the Clippers had no answers for the Sixers duo of Joel Embiid (44 points) and James Harden (20 points, 21 assists, 11 rebounds).
“We played the game the right way the first half, we played downhill, we played with pace, we defended — that’s just who we are regardless of who we play,” George said. “The challenge is doing that for a full game and that’s where we’re lacking.”
Leonard (six) and George (16) combined for only 22 points in the first meeting with Detroit this season but the Clippers pulled out a 96-91 victory on Nov. 17. Jackson led the offense with 23 points and the defense held the Pistons to the second-lowest point total by a Clippers opponent this season.
The Pistons have lost five straight, including a 130-105 thumping at Atlanta on Friday. The Hawks outscored them 70-42 after halftime.
It’s been a familiar pattern for Detroit during the slide. The Pistons keep it close or lead at the break, then the opponent tilts the game in its direction during the third quarter. Detroit is starting two rookies, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, and two third-year players.
That might change soon.
“We’ve just got to keep tweaking, looking at different lineups … it’s evident we’re not coming out with the right approach,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We’re here to grow those guys but not at the detriment of losing our spirit, losing our togetherness and losing games the way we’re losing ’em. I thought we played a solid first half but whatever approach we’ve tried at halftime is not working. I’ve got to look at it and our staff has to look at it to see what we can do to tweak it.”
The Pistons have given up at least 122 points in six of the last seven games. In the other contest, Philadelphia beat them by 20 points.
–Field Level Media