Why early season struggles could help Clippers
NOV 08, 2013 4:32p ET
Six games into their season, they're dealing with back-to-back losses on the road and the prospect of another difficult game before they return home next week.
But maybe adversity is good right now. After so many lofty expectations, an early season stumble could be the best thing for them.
After winning three of their first four games, the Clippers -- still battling through a variety of injuries -- have dropped games to the surprising Orlando Magic and two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat. On Saturday, they close out their road swing with a stop at Houston to face a Rockets team they defeated Monday night at Staples Center.
A loss would drop the Clippers to 3-4 -- nothing to worry about but certainly not the type of record they're familiar with. A Clippers team hasn't been below .500 since the 2011-12 team started the season 1-2.
They're not at full health, which is one reason for their current struggles. Reserve forward Matt Barnes hasn't play the past two games because of a bruised right thigh, and his absence has hampered the team's bench production. Starting forward Jared Dudley has tendinitis in his right knee but still played 27 minutes against the Heat, although he was just 1-of-5 shooting.
With Barnes out, coach Doc Rivers had to use Willie Green to guard LeBron James when Blake Griffin was not on the floor. James was held to 18 points, but guard Dwyane Wade struck for 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting.
All of this comes as the Clippers are still learning to make their new parts work.
"There's a learning curve," Griffin told reporters Thursday night. "The thing about it, we'll play against teams that have been together for a long time. The Heat, the Spurs, Oklahoma City, Golden State, they all have an advantage on us. They've had a year or two or more of playing their system and learning their system.
"We're always going to be a step behind that. But we can make up for that, especially on the defensive end, with intensity and doing the little things."
If they do, it will go a long way to helping them Saturday night. Although they scored a season-high 137 points against the Rockets earlier this week, they also gave up 118, and the Rockets shot 50 percent from the field (41 of 82).
Rivers is stressing the need for better defense, but so far the Clippers have been slow to adapt. The Heat shot 53.5 percent, and the Clippers currently are giving up 108.3 points a game, the second-worst mark in the league.
The Clippers have allowed 100 points five times in six games. If they do it again in Houston, it could be another long night and a long flight home.
+ SHOW COMMENTS +