How do you blow a 22-point lead?
The Clippers are proving capable of blowing all varieties of leads -- big, medium and small -- in excruciating and creative ways.
This time, the meltdown came early, not late. The Clippers had a 22-point lead dwindle to nine by the end of the first half, and vanish by the start of the fourth quarter.
Which turned the final 12 minutes into a genuine cliff-hanger.
Not quite all of it. The Clippers didn't score in the final 6:58, as the Raptors won, 104-89, Friday night at Staples Center.
Incredibly, the Clippers missed their final 11 shots.
Chris Bosh led the Raptors with yet another double-double, scoring 21 points and adding 14 rebounds. The Raptors hit nine three-pointers, eight of them in the second half.
Could this be the true definition of rock bottom for the free-falling Clippers?
"I hope so," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Coming into the game, we knew what their strengths were and at the end that's what they did.
" . . . It seemed as though every time we made a mistake in coverage, they moved the ball to the right guy and he banged down a shot."
Said small forward Al Thornton: "I wouldn't say rock bottom, but it's definitely a low point. It's frustrating, really frustrating."
No one seems to know quite what to do, including their distressed-looking owner Donald Sterling.
The Clippers, who were led by Chris Kaman's 25 points, are 3-7 in what has been supposedly a soft part of the schedule.
Their prized rookie, Blake Griffin, could be out for another month. Shooting guard Eric Gordon (sore left groin) remains sidelined, and his absence is glaring at both ends of the floor.
Said Baron Davis: "I don't know what to say. We got off to a good start, it's free-flowing and all of sudden we just started getting methodical, lackadaisical.
"We were turning down shots for worse shots, shooting four or five seconds into the shot clock. It seems like it's a lack of flow coming into that third quarter.
"You see the difference in what they did and what we did. They ran their plays. We're not attacking. . . . The first quarter, we're playing, guys are moving the ball, getting shots. In the second half, we settle in and we get complacent.
"In this league you can't get complacent because teams can score. We've got to play with a defensive mind-set."
This punctuated what was arguably one of the worst weeks for the Clippers, well . . . since last season.
They started with a 28-point loss to New Orleans on Monday, stumbled late in the game in losing to Oklahoma City, and now this.
Considering the Hornets fired Coach Byron Scott only days after they crushed the Clippers, it's only logical that questions and rumors about Dunleavy's future will surface, and they have already done so in some quarters.
The crowd seemed so stunned by the turn of developments Friday that the usual "Fire Dunleavy" chants weren't as loud.
Dunleavy, who is also the team's general manager, was asked before the game whether Sterling had asked him to choose between the two positions. He said that had not happened.
The Raptors' Jose Calderon suffered a cut over his left eye in a collision with Clippers guard Sebastian Telfair with four minutes remaining but returned. He had 18 points, 16 of them coming in the second half.
This marked the homecoming for former USC star DeMar DeRozan, who had especially fond memories of Staples Center, having been the MVP of the Pac-10 tournament last spring.
He started for the Raptors, as he has been, and picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter.
DeRozan played 11-plus minutes and struggled, scoring two points.
"It's exciting playing in front of family and friends again," he said before the game. "I'm just going to try to go out there and do the same thing I've been doing."
He said the rookie duties have, for the most part, been kept in check.
"This has really been exciting," he said. "Being with the fellas and me being the only rookie. Every blue moon when I'm not expecting it, they throw something out there when I least expect it."