HOUSTON — The Clippers finished their four-game trip with a whimper, showing such a lack of resolve that Coach Vinny Del Negro lit into his team in the locker room after the game.
They may have been playing their fourth game in five nights, but it was a feeble attempt at playing with inspiration against a Houston Rockets team missing its best player.
The Clippers return home having suffered a 98-81 beat-down by the Rockers on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.
"We were terrible," Del Negro said. "Our effort was. Our attitude was terrible. Our urgency was terrible. Very disappointing. I didn't see the fight in us tonight.
"And we need guys to step up. I know it's four games in five nights, but all that doesn't matter. We've got plenty of depth. No excuses. I don't believe in that."
The Clippers are 49-25, but Memphis improved to 49-24, taking a half-game lead over Los Angeles in the Western Conference.
If the Clippers win the Pacific Division, as is expected, they would be the fourth seed in the West.
But if the currently fifth-seeded Grizzlies have a better record than the Clippers at the end of the regular season and both teams remain where they are in the conference, Los Angeles would begin the first round of the playoffs in Memphis, as it did last season.
The Clippers put themselves in this position by falling behind the Rockets by 22 points.
They put themselves in this position by going 1-3 on the trip.
"We were soft," Del Negro said. "We were sloppy. Our urgency was poor. Our defense was poor. Our transition defense was poor. Our post defense was poor. Our pick-and-roll defense was poor…. Just a poor effort, disappointing effort.
"And we have to show way more urgency, way more toughness.."
Del Negro also wasn't happy that Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford both were assessed technical fouls in the second quarter.
"We don't have any leeway with the referees as it is," Del Negro said. "And to do that makes no sense. You're hurting yourself, you're hurting your teammates, you're hurting the whole team."
And the Rockets were doing this to the Clippers without All-Star guard and leading scorer James Harden, who was out with because of a sore right foot.
The Clippers trailed by five points at the half, but were outscored 30-13 in the third period, turning the game into a rout.
"That's not what we're about," Del Negro said. "I don't care what happened on this road trip. I don't care that we had tough losses. ... We've got plenty of depth. We've got plenty of balance on that roster to play much harder than we did tonight.
"We've got a lot of whining going on, a lot of lack of urgency going on, and it's disappointing. And I'm not going to allow that."