Los Angeles Times
Not too long ago, the Clippers were feeling pretty good about themselves. They were coming off an impressive team-oriented victory over Atlanta, which followed two solid efforts in close defeats to the Lakers and Utah. What a difference three days can make. The Clippers’ mood is totally different now. Instead of taking another growing step forward, the Clippers have the look of a team going the wrong way after the Dallas Mavericks dismantled them, 90-76, Monday for their second loss in as many nights. As if they’ve been watching free-throw tapes of Shaquille O’Neal, the Clippers made only 13 of 33 attempts (39.4 percent) as they dropped to 2-6 before a Staples Center crowd of 9,340. Coach Alvin Gentry was so upset that he kept the locker room closed for nearly 40 minutes after the game. “There’s a lot of frustration but we had a team meeting and we got a lot of things out,’’ said Quentin Richardson, who led the Clippers with 19 points and eight rebounds “Things are going to be changing as far as people being a lot happier. The key is to address the issue and we were able to talk things out in front of everybody … we talked about everything from execution of plays or the lack there of and how teams are playing us defensively harder than we are playing them.’’ Lamar Odom, who struggled with foul trouble all game and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, said the Clippers realize they have a lot to learn. “We don’t have our act together yet,’’ Odom said. “This is definitely gut-check time … We had a good talk to go over where we’re trying to go.
The Clippers actually shot better than the Mavericks in making 41.9 percent of their field goals, compared to Dallas’ 39.7 percent. But when a team bricks free throws like the Clippers did Monday, any thought of victory is out of the question. Dallas center Shawn Bradley dominated the Clippers’ big men. Yes, Shawn Bradley, who made eight of nine shots from the field and had a game-high 22 points after entering the game with a 5.4 scoring average. “I’ve been waiting for Shawn to have a breakout game like this,’’ Dallas Coach Don Nelson said of Bradley, who also had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. “He was great tonight. He did what was asked of him. It’s something that we need on a consistent basis.’’ With owner Mark Cuban sitting behind the bench, the Mavericks played most of the first quarter as if they were going through their pregame warmups.
Dallas made 10 of its first 14 field goals with many of the baskets coming without a Clipper in site. It didn’t matter if it was a jump shot or a layup because the Mavericks didn’t have to worry about defensive pressure. Dirk Nowitzki, who has a history of hurting the Clippers, had eight points in only six minutes but had to leave the game after picking up his third foul midway through the opening quarter. Once Nowitzki went to the bench, Steve Nash took over as the Mavericks took a commanding, 23-10 lead. The Clippers cut their deficit to seven points by the end of first quarter but the tone of the game had already been set by Dallas. Nelson, who has his own problem of doling out playing time with his deep roster, switched up in the second quarter by inserting Christian Laettner, Hubert Davis and Courtney Alexander into the game and the Mavericks did not skip a beat. In the second quarter, the Mavericks’ bench outscored their Clipper counterparts, 16-2, to help Dallas take a 50-38 lead at halftime. Over the first two quarters, the Clippers missed 12 of 20 free throws and turned the ball over 10 times compared to only five by the Mavericks.