Clippers forward Blake Griffin, second from left, shows his frustration… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Lately, the Clippers have been unable to deliver any victories against the NBA's top three teams, leaving some fans to ponder whether L.A. is ready to play at the same level as the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Spurs (47-14), Heat (44-14) and Thunder (43-16) have the top three records in the NBA and are playing some of their best basketball of the season.
"You better play high-level basketball," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Those teams are not going to beat themselves."
The Clippers lost a tough game to the Thunder on Sunday, coming back from a 19-point deficit to take a one-point lead, only to lose, 108-104.
Oklahoma City swept the season series, 3-0, from the Clippers.
The Clippers beat Miami in November, and it was an impressive victory at Staples Center. But last month in Miami, the Heat defeated the Clippers by 22 points.
The Clippers also beat the Spurs twice in November, by 22 points at Staples Center and in a tight game at San Antonio. But again, that was early in the season.
In their first game after the All-Star break last month, the Clippers lost to the Spurs by 26 points at Staples Center.
"Hopefully we can use this [Thunder loss] as a barometer to tighten some things up," Del Negro said.
Shoot or pass?
When should Chris Paul become more aggressive on offense?
Even Paul doesn't seem to have the answer.
"I don't know," Paul said. "When we open up the court, it's a little easier to do that."
He scored the final eight points in the Clippers' victory over the Indiana Pacers last week. And Paul scored 26 points against the Thunder on Sunday, with 22 coming in the second half.
It's just that Paul rarely, if ever, starts a game looking for his shot.
"The thing about Chris is he attracts so much attention," Jamal Crawford said. "Even when he's attacking, he's not always thinking score. He's attacking to set you up. He may score the first two, but he's really thinking about the third and fourth offensive sets to get his teammates going. That's what is so special about him."
Paul is third on the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game and first in assists at 9.5.
"Chris will take shots when they are open and pass it when somebody else is open," Lamar Odom said. "He plays basketball the right way."
The Clippers didn't practice on Monday, but players did go in for what the team calls "maintenance therapy" for injuries and some light workouts. They resume practice Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Staples Center.