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You know, we're only a month away from the end of the 2012-13 NBA season, and it feels like we've barely talked about how the Los Angeles Clippers are scheming, thieving floppers this year. Sure, Chauncey Billups was issued a warning back in December for creating and embellishing contact while taking a jumper that wound up being a pivotal play in a Clips win over the Utah Jazz, but besides that, all's been pretty quiet on the flop-bound front.
Maybe the absence of landmark fine-receiver Reggie Evans has something to do with that, but still — this was Flop City, guys! Remember how mad everyone got? And Chris Paul — shoot, quiet as it's kept, CP3 was a true master of the form, the kind of flopper who made opposing coaches' blood boil. Has he really lost his touch?
OK, so in terms of pure unmitigated gall and theatrics — seriously, check out the "agony" written on CP3's face — the Clippers' All-Star point guard has clearly still got the goods. But not getting a call there? On DeMarcus Cousins of all people, whom most referees would gladly T up for breathing on an opponent? Maybe Paul is slipping a bit.
Hey, Tyreke Evans, show him how it's done:
Now that's the stuff. It's just like we've always said — Chris Paul, you could really learn a thing or two about the finer points of massaging the NBA game from Tyreke Evans.
Ineffective simulation wasn't the only cross that Paul and the Clippers had to bear on Tuesday night. They also had to deal with the Sacramento Kings' up-and-down pace (only the Houston Rockets have averaged more possessions per game since the All-Star break), 3-point shooting (the Kings went 14 for 28 from deep, continuing the marksmanship that has them third in the league in post-All-Star 3-point percentage) and, amazingly enough, Toney Douglas.
The former Rockets and New York Knicks guard harassed Paul defensively, helping hold the All-NBA triggerman to 11 points on 2 for 10 shooting and leveling his game-high 15 assists with seven turnovers. More than that, Douglas also popped off offensively, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter (5 for 6 from the field and 3 for 4 from deep, including one from really deep) as the Kings blitzed past L.A. to a 38-18 final frame and a 116-101 upset victory in front of a pumped-up crowd at Sleep Train Arena.
After the game, Paul sounded disappointed in his team's defensive intensity, according to Michael Wagaman of The Associated Press:
"We keep making the same mistakes," Paul said [...] "Last year we had something where we could get stops when we needed to. Right now I don't think we have the confidence that we need defensively."
It's a note coach Vinny Del Negro echoed after one of the Clippers' worst losses of the season, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
"We're not playing well enough right now," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We're not guarding hard enough right now. We're not physically and mentally tough enough, especially when we have to be, in the fourth quarter. And that's definitely a concern."
Likewise concerning: The loss dropped the Clippers to 46-22, a half-game behind the hard-charging Denver Nuggets, who beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 13 games, and percentage-points back of the nearly-as-hot Memphis Grizzlies. Because the Clippers are a division leader, they still outrank the Nuggets for a top-four seed, but the loss moved the Grizzlies back into third place in the West and with Denver holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over L.A., dropping one to the Kings might be not only embarrassing, but also very costly in the race for home-court advantage come playoff time.
Come to think of it, maybe the Clippers really are still on point when it comes to flopping.
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