FOR THE MOST part of last night's game it appeared as if the 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers were trying to shoot baskets in a blizzard.
It was easier to see the yard markers in Sunday's Eagles game than it was to find a good-looking shot, especially from the home team. Unlike the Eagles, who Sunday relied on a running game when the passing one wasn't working, the Sixers don't have an inside game to rely on much for easy baskets, so when the jumpers aren't falling the losses will mount.
They weren't and the Sixers fell for the seventh time in eight games and 11th in 13, 94-83 to the Clippers, who are in the middle of a seven-game road trip.
While the Sixers were only able to convert 36 percent of their shots (33 of 92), Los Angeles wasn't much better, making just 35 of 82 (42.7 percent). But the Clippers broke things open in a 32-point third quarter that saw them grow the lead to as many as 21 and, seemingly easily, coasted to the win. In that third, point guard Chris Paul played with a this-is-enough attitude and scored 12 of his 25 points and dealt five of his 13 assists.
Blake Griffin scored a game-high 26 and DeAndre Jordan collected 11 points and 21 rebounds for LA, which improved to 14-8.
"I love watching Chris Paul," said Sixers coach Brett Brown. "He's a rare breed of a highly intelligent, skilled player that just has a tenacity that is hard to measure. I've coached against him [as an assistant with San Antonio], I've coached with him in All-Star Games. He just ticks at a certain rate. You take those athletes and those thoroughbreds and you give the ball to a leader like that and it's hard to guard. I think, as it relates to us, it's a great example of what we strive to get to. With Tony Wroten, have a look at Chris Paul. This is something pretty special."
Paul certainly was special in an otherwise unspectacular game. The Sixers did play well on defense, trying to be as physical as they could on Griffin (8-for-14 from the foul line), did a good job of getting out on shooters for the most part and actually won the rebounding battle (50-49) despite the monster night from Jordan.
But it was the outside shooting that did them in. Take away the 24-for-47 they shot in the paint and the Sixers were just 9-for-45 (20 percent) outside of it, and that includes 3-for-21 from three-point range.
Evan Turner led the Sixers with 25 points and also collected eight rebounds and five assists. Thaddeus Young was his only teammate in double figures with 16 to go with 11 boards. The backcourt missed 26 of 38 shots and Spencer Hawes scored just two points. Not hard to see why this was a loss.
"Coach has been preaching defense, defense, defense," said Wroten, who started at the point for the injured Michael Carter-Williams and tallied nine points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. "So holding them to not score 100 points, we feel pretty good about it. Offensively some things weren't falling and when you play good teams like that you have to come through with some [shots], and we have to shoot better from the three-point line also."
As is the case for this season, coaches and players have to find positives when there doesn't seem to be many, and last night was no different.
"I'm proud of what they did tonight," Brown said. "We were god-awful defensively in Charlotte two games ago and improved. We've made a commitment. That's not them and that's not my background [bad defense]. And we have to help our young guys in developing better and making shots and finishing. We have to set better screens, we have to execute a little bit better. You have to do everything a little bit harder, you have to do everything a little bit better. We can't just plunk it down and watch Kevin Durant break somebody down and shoot it and score. We can't dump it into Blake and have him jump over the world."
And they don't have LeSean McCoy to make ankle-breaking cuts in 8 inches of slushy snow. But the Clippers had Chris Paul last night. And he was more than enough to overcome anything else.