The Clippers dug themselves a first-quarter hole Sunday against the Orlando Magic.
A deep, 21-point one.
The rest of the game, they clawed and climbed, but there wasn't enough time to reach the top, and they lost, 94-85.
For the Clippers (5-20), it marked their eighth straight loss to Orlando (16-8).
They can take solace in the fact they won each quarter after that first one, and they had a season-low eight turnovers.
"Some positives, but not the result we're looking for," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Guard Eric Gordon, who scored a game-high 28 points on nine-for-23 shooting and had eight assists, summed it up simply: "That first quarter killed us."
That quarter, in which the Magic made 16 of 25 shots compared to the Clippers' five-for-21 start, including 0 for 6 by Gordon.
It could only go up from there, and thankfully for the Clippers, it did.
Gordon found his shooting touch in the third quarter, hitting four of five shots, to help draw the Clippers to within 10 entering the fourth.
With 9 minutes 1 second left in the game, the Clippers closed to within six points when forward Blake Griffin delivered one of his now-expected highlight slams off a long alley-oop pass from guard Baron Davis.
Orlando center Dwight Howard would miss five of his next free-throw shots, but the Clippers couldn't capitalize, missing three shots and committing two turnovers before the Magic's lead got back to 10.
"We battled these guys for three quarters, but I was very disappointed with how we started the game," Del Negro said.
Orlando snapped a four-game skid by shooting 36 for 75 (48%) compared to the Clippers' 32 for 84 (38.1%).
Howard, who was playing with his father, Dwight Howard Sr., among the 18,278 in attendance at Staples Center, had 22 points and eight rebounds.
Jameer Nelson added 17 points and nine assists.
Howard sat out most of the second half with foul trouble, so the first matchup between he and Griffin never amounted to much.
"He's really aggressive out there," Howard said. "That's what I like about him."
Griffin finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds, but after, he didn't think about the Howard matchup, only his team's poor start.
"That was the worst part," Griffin said. "We beat them through three quarters. If we hadn't been down 20, or whatever it was, we could've been right there."
Gordon said he was proud the team didn't quit, especially when its deficit reached 26 in the second quarter.
"We didn't back down," he said.
But Del Negro said the Clippers need more on offense from players not named Griffin or Gordon, as no one else scored in double figures.
Davis started in place of rookie Eric Bledsoe and had four points and six assists in nearly 33 minutes.
Was energy an excuse, considering the team was playing the second game of a back-to-back?
"We have a lot of young guys," Del Negro said. "We should have plenty of energy."