Clippers point guard Baron Davis drives the baseline against Suns point… (Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire )
Reporting from Phoenix — Will the Clippers' Christmas Day invitation get lost in the mail next year?
Why that might happen was easy to see, and painfully simple to figure out.
Not that it needed great detective work to uncover why the Clippers were crushed by the Phoenix Suns, 124-93, Friday night. The host Suns, who have defeated the Clippers six consecutive times, had seven players score in double figures.
Overall, it was the Clippers' third consecutive loss and they haven't won since a potential winning shot at the buzzer in overtime by Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala was waved off by officials.
That was the Clippers' only victory in the last five games and they've gone from flirting with .500 to falling five games below .500, tumbling to 12-17.
But back to the why.
The Suns were leading, 25-24, when Marcus Camby left with 1 minute 32 seconds to play in the first quarter, drastically changing the inside dynamic, considering he had five rebounds in 10 minutes.
He did not return.
Camby suffered a hyper-extended left knee in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' loss at Houston on Tuesday and did not practice Thursday.
For the Clippers, the game started with an edge of sharpness, as it often happens. They grabbed 14 of the game's first 15 rebounds and had an eight-point lead with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter before Suns Coach Alvin Gentry called a timeout.
But there were already signs of slippage even before Camby left for good. Chris Kaman, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, started slowing after he had seven points and seven rebounds in short order.
And after the Clippers' leading rebounder, Camby, couldn't go on, a close game turned into a blowout and quickly morphed into an embarrassment on national TV.
"That took us one man down, major rebounder for us, a guy that clogs the paint. . . . I pulled the plug early on us," Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Marcus being down and games coming up, I didn't want to take the chance of anyone else getting injured."
Sadly, a running clock in the fourth quarter didn't land in the Christmas stockings of the officials.
Given the chance to take an extended look, Dunleavy was not impressed by his bench.
"I was a little disappointed," he said. "Guys had the opportunity to get in there and play some good minutes. If you want playing time, you've got to put up some numbers, play well and make a case for yourself."
Rasual Butler did just that, leading the Clippers with 22 points.
Of great immediate concern is Camby's health. He had the knee looked at during the game by the Suns' team doctor, who noted the recurrence of swelling, and Camby will have an MRI exam today in Los Angeles.
"It's really sore," Camby said. "I was supposed to stay over in Houston with my family down there, but I flew back to L.A. the next day to get treatment on it. It didn't feel right when I woke up. I tried to give it a go today and tried to do what I could do. I was just playing on effort out there."
The blowout can't all be pinned on the loss of Camby, considering the Clippers have managed to lose plenty with him in the lineup.
"You can't really say one thing, exactly, or it was 10 things. We didn't get the win," Kaman said. "We didn't finish the game. We didn't finish the half even."
Said Baron Davis: "I think the way we played from the first quarter to the second quarter was totally different, and then the third quarter was totally different and it just got worse as the game went along."
What also took more air out the Clippers was a buzzer-beating bank shot from three-quarters of the court by Grant Hill, who was cheated when the length of the shot was listed at 53 feet.
Asked where the shot ranked in terms of length, Hill joked: "Uh, top 20."
It gave the Suns a 67-55 lead at the half.
"I thought he traveled," Kaman said.
Said Camby: "As soon as he got it off, the way it being Christmas and everything, I had the feeling it was going to drop."