You know it's not a good sign when the coach has accumulated more technicals than wins this season.
That would be nine to eight.
The Clippers have been stuck on eight wins since beating the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 19, and their losing streak hit 11 games on Sunday. Phoenix beat the undermanned Clippers, 109-103, behind 26 points from Amare Stoudemire and 21 points each from Grant Hill and Jason Richardson.
Though the Clippers are stalled on eight victories, Coach Mike Dunleavy has had no such trouble adding to his rapidly increasing total of technical fouls. It was T-squared at Staples Center when he picked up two more with six minutes remaining in the third quarter (upset over a non-call on Eric Gordon) and was summarily tossed.
And it was back to his office in the locker room and the coaching reins were handed over to laid-back assistant Kim Hughes.
"I watched and yelled at the TV," Dunleavy said.
It was either that or asking the injured Baron Davis or Zach Randolph if they wanted to play cards. Davis (bruised tailbone) and Randolph (sore knee) could be back in about a week or so.
Kidding aside, there wasn't much to yell about for a concerted stretch in the fourth quarter, in which the Clippers went on a 16-5 run to get back in the game, pulling to 89-89.
But a trademark of the losing streak, and the season, has been late collapses and finding new ways to lose. (Getting down 12-0 to start the game didn't help, either). The Clippers scored only three points in the final 2:53 and the three-point shot came from Fred Jones just before the buzzer.
"Our guys competed for a full 48 minutes," Dunleavy said. "We did a lot of good things, but we made some mistakes. We have to try to tighten up our game in that regard as far as turnovers and we were called for eight charges today. I certainly did not agree with all of them, obviously, getting tossed, but most of them were right."
Said the Clippers' Al Thornton: "It seems like a curse every game. We've got to get those [injured] guys back sooner, so we can spread it out."
That's because on this undermanned team, searching for ways to score, there's been an inability to get Thornton and the rookie Gordon going at the same time. It's like a seesaw with Thornton and Gordon.
One has a good game, and the other doesn't. And vice versa.
This time, it was Thornton's turn to excel and he led the Clippers with 23 points, and Marcus Camby had 18 points and 18 rebounds. Gordon was two for 14 from the field and 0 for 7 from three-point range. He finished with 14 points, but 10 were from the free-throw line.
It was his first true off-game in weeks.
"I just didn't make any shots," he said. "I had a couple of open looks I should have knocked down. I just had an off night. I'm going to try to make that change. They played pretty good defense, but I just didn't make open shots."
Said Thornton: "We don't have too many scorers on the team. For us to have some success, we both have to have good games."
There were other strange developments in the building aside from Dunleavy's rash of technicals.
The Suns' Hill had the first flagrant foul of his career, hitting Thornton from behind early in the third quarter.
Then there's the startling sight of the Suns' Shaquille O'Neal turning into a free-throw shooting machine. He was five for five against the Clippers and has made his last 12 free throws.
O'Neal hasn't gone old school. He's gone back to high school, as in his form of those days long ago.
Forget his nickname Big Cactus. Welcome to Shaq-ovic.
"It means if you go down the league, anybody with the last name [finishing with] 'vic' is a great shooter," said O'Neal, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. "[Vladimir] Radmanovic, [Sasha] Vujacic . . . all those 'vics.' "