Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Bulls forward Taj Gibson get tangled… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Ominous signs spotted before the Clippers depart on a Grammy-imposed exile for almost the rest of February …
There was, of course, the end of their home-winning streak, halted at nine games by the surging Chicago Bulls. The Bulls defeated the Clippers, 106-88, on Wednesday night at Staples Center, avenging their gutting loss to the Clippers at Chicago in mid-December.
Blake Griffin had 32 points and 13 rebounds — his 40th double-double of the season — but struggled in a major way from the free-throw line, going four for 13. Griffin had 25 points in the first half and just seven in the second.
On top of that, he had to listen to increasingly loud "MVP, MVP" chants for Bulls star Derrick Rose, who had 32 points and 11 assists.
It looked as if the Clippers brought out their road game, one game early.
"When the game is easy for us, everything goes smooth," said Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro. "But when the game gets — I don't want to say technical or fundamental or it gets hard — with our youth, we've got to stay together more.
"We're not doing that and that's kind of what happens to us on the road. We have these lulls."
The Clippers (19-29) lost for the first time in three games, overall, and they had not dropped a game at home since losing to Atlanta on Jan. 2. Chicago had the big edge in rebounding, 41-30.
Back to the ominous clouds on the horizon.
Not only was there the loss itself, but starting point guard Baron Davis was playing in pain and discomfort, particularly for most of the second half. Davis, who scored 10 points and had three assists, had his back worked on on the sideline.
Apparently, Davis hurt his back in the first half due to contact when going after a rebound.
Any extended issue with this back could be a significant problem for the Clippers, who play their next 11 games on the road.
One player not making the trip will be little-used reserve Willie Warren, who was assigned late Wednesday to Bakersfield of the Developmental League.
There was also the curious slow fade from center DeAndre Jordan. Then again, fade might suggest that Jordan was a presence in the first place. Which he, most definitely, was not.
It was a strange showing from Jordan.
Zero points, two blocked shots, three rebounds and two turnovers in nearly 30 minutes. All this coming two days after his brilliant performance against Milwaukee.
"He's got to battle through it," Del Negro said. "It's not always going to be an easy game. It's going to be a physical game and he's got to pick his spots and we need him to play at a much higher level for us, like he's been."
The reserves, other than Ike Diogu and his eight points, were almost non-factors.
"We all just were not at our peak," said Griffin "We've just got to do a better job of being a complete team, all finishing games out."
Said Del Negro: "Blake had a huge first half…. Ryan [Gomes] made some shots. But we've got to get more production than just, you know, Blake."