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Clippers stray way off course from start

They give up 46 points in the first quarter, including 23 by LeBron James, and lose, 114-89, to drop to 1-5 on a trip that still has stops in Chicago and Atlanta. Baron Davis scores 30 points for L.A.

February 01, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Cleveland — Their itinerary calls for stops in Chicago and then Atlanta, but at this rate the Clippers might as well save the airfare and return to Southern California.

Almost nothing has gone right on a season-long eight-game trip, the latest setback coming Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena during a 114-89 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The first quarter was particularly dispiriting to the Clippers, who fell behind by 26 points and left little doubt about anything except where to make dinner reservations tonight in Chicago.

The Clippers have lost four consecutive games and are 1-5 on a trip that has prompted questions about more than just their shaky offense.

"It's a shame the amount of talent that we have in this locker room and we're not putting forth the effort," said point guard Baron Davis, who scored 30 points two days after calling a players-only meeting to try to shake the team out of its funk.

"It's kind of hard to explain, but we get down 20, 30 points and then we want to start playing with some courage and some passion."

The score was so lopsided that the Clippers scored 12 consecutive points during one stretch of the third quarter -- and they still trailed by 18.

Their predicament stemmed from another horrid first quarter.

Cleveland forward LeBron James poured in 23 of his 32 points during the quarter, when the Cavaliers shot 76.2% and tied a franchise record by scoring 46 points.

They also tied an NBA record with 11 three-point baskets, many of them from several feet behind the arc.

"I've got money that I'll put them in the gym naked, nobody else on them, that they probably can't make 11 out of 14 again from the same spots they made them in the game," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said.

James made eight of nine shots in the first quarter, including five of six three-point shots.

He was so hot that he nearly scored on a bounce pass that deflected off forward Anderson Varejao.

"There's no description for a player getting in a zone like that," James said. ". . . Everything you put up feels like it's going in."

Lots of Clippers opponents are experiencing that sensation lately.

The last three teams to play the Clippers have shot better than 50% and each has built a double-digit lead in the first quarter.

Center DeAndre Jordan said the Clippers' defense wasn't to blame against the Cavaliers, who have won a season-high eight consecutive games.

"We were in their face when they were taking those shots but they were just hitting them," Jordan said. "That first quarter was just crazy."

It didn't help that the Clippers were playing without center Chris Kaman, who sat out a second consecutive game because of a sprained left ankle.

But their struggles extend beyond the absence of their leading scorer; they have lost 12 of their last 13 games on the road and nine of 12 games overall.

Guard Eric Gordon has failed to regain his shooting touch since returning from a three-game absence caused by a sprained big toe on his left foot.

He made five of 16 shots against the Cavaliers and is shooting 34.1% in his last three games.

Of course, he's hardly the only Clipper who isn't in top form.

"It seems like we're down and in a little funk now collectively and there's some frustration brewing," Davis said. "But one thing I want to try to continue to do is talk guys out of it and keep them motivated and encouraged. That's my role on this team, to keep everybody happy."


With the swelling in his ankle still not having subsided, Kaman said he would "wait a couple of more days to get in a game."

"More than anything I can't explode off it, I can't jump off it like I want to," he said. "It's not strong enough."

Jordan logged his first double-double of the season in Kaman's absence Sunday, getting 11 points to go with 13 rebounds.

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