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Another masked man can't rescue Clippers

Although Chris Paul, wearing a face guard to protect his fractured nose, has 23 points, it's not enough to turn back the Warriors in a 97-93 defeat.

March 11, 2012|By Baxter Holmes

It's Mask Madness in Los Angeles.

Apparent trendsetter Kobe Bryant started the look less than two weeks ago, using the facial accessory to protect a broken nose, concussion and a neck injury.

Then on Sunday, Chris Paul gave the fad some additional star power by wearing a clear model in the Clippers' 97-93 loss to the Golden State Warriors in front of 19,183 at Staples Center.

Yet his fashion statement, which serendipitously occurred just days before L.A.'s 10-day Fashion "Week" begins Thursday, didn't result in too stylish a show.

Unlike in his season-high 36-point outburst against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, the game in which he suffered a first-quarter nasal fracture that led to the mask against Golden State, Paul finished with a quiet 23 points.

His teammates more than picked up the slack, chiseling a deficit that was as much as 21 points away entirely after a driving Blake Griffin dunk with 4 minutes 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter tied the score at 83.

But despite the momentum and the backing of a roaring crowd, the Clippers weren't able to complete the comeback, a recurring theme as they dropped the first of their six-game homestand and fell to 23-16.

"Our starters have to do a better job with their energy to start the game off," said Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro, describing his team's penchant to digging itself an early hole.

Said Griffin, who finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds: "If you try as hard as possible to take a positive from it, it's that we are capable of coming back in a game like that. But like I said, we can't let ourselves get to that point."

As for Paul's facial hardware, it didn't seem to affect his shooting — he made 10 of 18 shots. But he did post only five assists, below his 8.5-per-game average.

Did it inhibit him? "Not at all," Paul said. "We just lost."

As a whole, the Clippers looked road-weary in their first game home after a six-game trip that spanned both coasts.

The Warriors outran them early, earning a 10-0 advantage in fastbreak points in the first quarter, after which they led by 12 points. At halftime, they led by 13 points.

Golden State (17-21) shot 51% and had five players scored in double figures, led by 21 points and 11 assists from Monta Ellis.

It certainly didn't help the Clippers that they missed 16 of 35 free throws.

There was a scary moment when Griffin caught a fierce elbow to the head from Golden State's Dominic McGuire with 7:13 left in the third quarter.

The Clippers star fell immediately to the court and it appeared as though his team might need another protective mask for him, as he kept shaking his head, blinking.

"Nothing serious," Griffin said. 

Del Negro was furious that no foul was called and his outburst to the official earned a technical foul. 

The Clippers couldn't get over the hump at the end. They were issued a technical foul for six players on the court less than two minutes later, cementing an odd night for them. 

What seemed normal, though, was their ability to fall behind big early and then fail to complete a comeback late.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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