LOS ANGELES — Following the LA Clippers‘ third straight loss, Kawhi Leonard said he felt the team didn’t come out ready to play and that “the time is now” for the Clippers to start coming together and getting healthier.
The Clippers returned from a nine-day All-Star break Saturday afternoon looking like they were still on a beach. They missed 20 of 24 shots and scored just 13 points in the first quarter before dropping a 112-103 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center. The three-game slide is the Clippers’ longest of the season.
“You never know what could happen,” Leonard said when asked if the Clippers need to see things start to come together before concern sets in. “But I mean, now. The time is now. Just got to keep getting better.
“But it doesn’t matter what seed you are. Just got to keep fighting. It is about the right team peaking at the right time. I don’t think we have even got there yet. It feels like we are getting close, but we just need guys to get healthy.”
While the Clippers (37-19) played without Paul George (hamstring) and Patrick Beverley (groin) and are still incorporating recent additions Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris, Leonard knows the team has only 26 games left to get healthy and head into the postseason with championship chemistry.
The Clippers started their 28th different lineup on Saturday — tied with Detroit for the most used this season — as coach Doc Rivers started Jackson in his Clippers debut with Beverley out. Jackson scored eight points and shot 3-for-9 in his first game with the Clippers.
With injuries to key players such as Leonard, George and Beverley, among others, and with new additions being shuffled in, the Clippers’ season has been disjointed.
“We didn’t have rhythm before, so when you’re bringing in new guys with other guys who probably don’t have great continuity, as well, [there’s no rhythm],” Rivers said. “I told [Jackson] before the game, ‘Try to do as much as you know and just play, and we’ll figure it out.’ Tough spot for him being the point guard. He’s trying to run sets that he doesn’t know. I think that’s very difficult.”
Even though the Clippers were shorthanded, Saturday’s loss was another example of how inconsistent they have been this season. On one hand, they were capable of locking in and beating the Los Angeles Lakers in each of their two meetings. But on the other hand, they can look defenseless at times and lose to the Kings (23-33) twice at home in just over three weeks.
The Clippers trailed 81-67 in the third quarter but erased the deficit and led 97-94 with 7:51 remaining. Then, they finished the game almost in the same futile manner in which they started it, missing 10 of their last 11 shots and scoring just two points in the final six minutes. The Clippers had 19 turnovers in the game, with Lou Williams committing eight of them.
“Definitely not a concern,” Williams said of the Clippers’ season-long losing streak. “I think we just continue to build. We’ve lost three games in a row before — not this particular group, but everybody in this locker room has experienced it.
“And as far as the standings go, I think we’re still in a good space. We’re still working out some kinks as far as everything, and so it’s nothing to be concerned about. But we gotta get the next one.”