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Clippers found lacking again

How can they expect to beat Grizzlies anywhere, but especially in Memphis, if starting center doesn't show up?

April 27, 2013|T.J. Simers
  • Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups look on from the Clippers' bench as L.A. was routed in a loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis, 104-83.
Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups look on from the Clippers' bench as… (Andy Lyons / Getty Images )

RATHOLE, TENN. — I survived, but the Clippers did not.

Matt Barnes kicked the bucket.

The trash bucket. As a result, there was garbage flying everywhere Saturday as the Clippers trudged off the court looking every bit the 21-point miserable losers.

Garbage is also a good way to describe the Clippers' contribution to anyone's NBA playoff memory bank.

At the same time a yellow growl towel fell from above and hit Chris Paul, three fans also were tossing obscenities his way. It caused an uproar among the Clippers.

Paul mentioned something about the way the fans were talking in front of kids, and offered them passes so he might meet with them personally to discuss it.

The police were there, but they looked the other way.

It's Memphis.

"I wouldn't let my wife and kid come because of how disrespectful they are here,'' Paul said, after telling a room full of media moments earlier, "I didn't want to come back here by any means.''

So how come he didn't make sure there wasn't any chance of that happening?

I realize, in addition to playing point guard, that would have meant playing center, because the Clippers don't have one. But hey, he's made the Clippers successful, and that was considered an impossible task.

He's also the team leader and it's time to point out to DeAndre Jordan the reason everyone will be returning here is that he never showed up.

If the Clippers continue to play four-on-five and allow Marc Gasol to dominate, they will come back here and end their season in Memphis.

I'd then make them spend the entire off-season here.

The Clippers only had to win the second half Saturday to essentially finish off the Grizzlies. But as Barnes so eloquently put it, "We got punked.''

They could not match the energy of so many who have so little else going on in their lives, the fans' desperation seeming to spur on the Grizzlies.

There is a different vibe here, all right. They brought a fan to center court dressed in a Clippers T-shirt with Paul's number on his back. They had him attempt a shot from midcourt to win something, but as he did the team's mascot clobbered him and knocked him to the floor.

It was staged, of course, but everything here is based in violence.

The local columnist wrote he was under orders from the Memphis Commercial Appeal publisher to write about Page 2 rather than the Clippers because the publisher said, "it's time for war."'

War? I'm afraid the Times' publisher doesn't even know my name, and if he ordered me to do anything, it would be to stop writing.

No wonder the billboards outside town here read: "Danger: Enter at your own risk.''

Or, as one fan tweeted on behalf of the local welcome wagon: "I hope you and your whole family die in a house fire.''

They sure do take things seriously here, the mayor of Memphis, A C Wharton, weighing in. "We're not going to focus on some guy in LA when the situation is right here in Memphis, Tennessee,'' he said, and apparently he understands this is no place for a picnic.

But if the Clippers think of themselves as championship-worthy, and maybe more so now with the injury to Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, they are going to have to show some grit.

If they win this series they no longer would have the home-court edge, and they should be worried how little it's taken to unsettle them.

"It was a lack of poise and cohesion,'' said Lamar Odom, yet all year long we've heard how tight these guys are as a team.

When the going got tough, Jordan was on the bench. How does a team with championship aspirations tolerate a guy who doesn't always show up?

Jordan played a little more than 17 minutes, made one of three shots for two points, and had two rebounds. You would think he's a magician as often as he disappears in games.

Coach Vinny Del Negro turned to Ronny Turiaf later despite an energetic burst early on from Ryan Hollins, but Gasol ignited the second-half romp with 18 points.

"Am I concerned? Yeah," Del Negro said. "I'm concerned because the last two games Memphis has played the way they need to in order to win. And if we don't change that at home…"

The Clippers outrebounded the Grizzlies in two games at home, 87-61. But they were no match for the growl towels, getting outrebounded here, 90-61.

They are going to have to be tougher than what they have shown in kicking a trash bucket.

They will be favored to win Tuesday at Staples, but Friday's game in the rathole might be the most telling if they really do have high hopes.

And I'll be lucky enough to see it for myself, along with the security guard they've assigned me for games here.

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