Clippers forward Ryan Gomes attempts to block a shot by Raptors guard Jose… (Chris Young / Associated…)
Reporting from Toronto — The descent started when they lost to a team two days before that had established records for professional futility. On Sunday, the Clippers had a chance to make amends against a Toronto Raptors team that had dropped 16 of its last 17 games.
They couldn't lose two in a row to opponents that have struggled so badly, could they?
These are, of course, the Clippers. Every time they give a hint that the bad old days are behind them, they show that a culture takes a lot of time to change, one Blake Griffin dunk at a time.
The Clippers lost, 98-93, to the Raptors at Air Canada Centre, tumbling to 1-5 on their marathon Grammy trip, also known as Exile From Staples.
And if it all seems oh-so familiar, well, it is. Last season, the Clippers lost consecutive games against lowly New Jersey and Minnesota under the hand of coach Mike Dunleavy and a wildly different-looking lineup.
Now, Cleveland and Toronto make it one tidy bookend of failure against the minnows a little more than a year later.
"We're struggling," Coach Vinny Del Negro said. 'We ain't exactly road warriors here."
That was painfully accurate. The Clippers have only three more road victories than Washington, which finally won one away from home Sunday. This was the Clippers' 20th road loss in 24 games and they are 3-8 in their last 11 games overall.
Griffin led the Clippers with 21 points and 15 rebounds despite foul trouble, and Baron Davis had 20 points, seven assists and a team-high five turnovers. The pace, and trip, seemed to take a toll on Davis, who had only four points in the second half.
Brian Cook had a season-high 17 points off the bench, which included 12 in the second quarter. Guard Randy Foye struggled in a big way, shooting two for 14 from the field for five points, and Ryan Gomes, who had 14 points, was on the bench for about the last seven minutes because of a sore right knee
"It was more sore tonight. I felt it a little bit last game, but it was tolerable," Gomes said. "Tonight, I told the trainer at halftime it was kind of bothering me. I went out there and gave it a whirl as long as I could. It swelled up a little bit more and was sore when I ran."
Not an especially promising sign considering the other Clippers options at the three position. Rookie small forward Al-Farouq Aminu had three points in nearly 19 minutes and Del Negro appears reluctant to give Rasual Butler many significant minutes.
For the Raptors, center Andrea Bargnani had a game-high 27 points, former USC star DeMar DeRozan had 17 points and Ed Davis had 13 points off the bench.
With two games left on the trip, there are certain elements that are more frustrating for the Clippers about this current slide than the 1-13 start to the season.
"A little bit," Griffin said. "At the same, missing Eric Gordon is huge for us. Our leading scorer. Having him out just kind of shrinks the floor a little bit. Either one is tough. It's tough to lose games no matter what part of the year it is."
The arena was sold out for Griffin's lone appearance, a rare sellout for the Raptors. The spectators got what they wanted: Highlight dunks from Griffin and a win from the Raptors.
Said Griffin: "I'd rather play in front of three people and get a win than 20,000 and lose."