Lamar Odom, left, defends Golden State's Stephen Curry, who scored… (Richard Hartog / Associated…)
A letdown by the Clippers on Saturday night seemed to be inevitable against the Golden State Warriors, in the second game of their first back-to-back set this season.
The Clippers opened the season playing their first two games against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Lakers, opponents that brought out the best in them.
But the Clippers had difficulty bringing the same intensity against the Warriors. They finally did do it, but they waited too long and dropped a 114-110 decision at Staples Center.
Chris Paul, the Clippers' go-to man, had a tough night despite scoring 27 points and making 19 of 20 free throws. He was just three for nine from the field, and was called for a charging foul that nullified what would have been a tying basket with 7.5 seconds to play. Moments earlier Paul missed a free throw that could have tied it.
The Clippers got back into a game they had trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Jamal Crawford (27 points) made a three-pointer that tied the score at 105-105 with two minutes left.
Later, Paul missed the second of two free throws, leaving the Clippers down, 109-108, with 42.4 seconds left.
After Jarrett Jack made two free throws for a 111-108 Warriors lead, Paul scored on a drive to pull the Clippers to within one point with 23.8 seconds left.
The Clippers fouled Stephen Curry, who made one of two free throws for a 112-110 Warriors lead with 21.4 seconds left, leaving the door ajar for the Clippers.
Paul almost lost control of his dribble while Warriors forward David Lee guarded him on a switch. After Paul drove around Lee, he was called for an offensive foul for charging into Curry. Then Curry was fouled again and made two free throws for the last of his 23 points.
Before the game began, Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro admitted he was concerned that his team's intensity might drop after impressive wins over the Grizzlies and Lakers.
"But I think we have good leadership in the locker room and there's no easy games in this league," Del Negro said. "I don't care who you're playing. . . . And it's early in the season. I don't think there will be an energy problem, per se."
No, energy wasn't the problem. But complaining to the officials was. The Clippers were issued four individual technical fouls — on DeAndre Jordan, Paul, Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes.
The Clippers didn't show up when the game started. They fell behind by 14 points in the first quarter while giving up 33 points.
The Clippers' defense was terrible in the quarter, allowing the Warriors to shoot 65%.
Entering Saturday night's game, Caron Butler was averaging 12 points a game and most of those points seemed to come in the first quarter.
With that being the case, Del Negro said the coaches want Butler to stay active all game.
"We've just got to keep Caron engaged at both ends of the court," Del Negro said. "Sometimes he's going to get more touches in other games. That's just the way the team is built right now."
Butler had just two points in the first quarter against the Warriors, but finished with 20.