The Los Angeles Clippers aren't catching many breaks.
Coming off their worst shooting effort of the season, the Clippers, who could again be without Chris Paul, now face the difficult task of completing a back-to-back-to-back stretch Wednesday night against a defensively-sound Dallas Mavericks team that has been waiting for them in Los Angeles.
The Clippers (7-4) didn't seem to miss Paul (left hamstring) in Monday's 101-91 win over New Jersey, but his absence was clearly noticeable in Tuesday's 108-79 loss in Utah. Los Angeles came out flat, falling behind 13-2, and finishing with season lows in scoring and shooting (36.5 percent). Blake Griffin finished with a season-worst 10 points - 11.9 less than his team-leading average.
"I didn't like our approach," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I didn't like our focus. I didn't like our toughness. I didn't like our energy to start the game."
If there was one positive, the score was so lopsided Del Negro got to rest his starters in the fourth quarter in anticipation for their third game in as many days.
"There's no excuse," he said. "We got to bounce back (Wednesday) and play much harder."
That seems like a tall order against a Dallas team that has been clamping down on the defensive end.
The Mavericks (8-6) have been in Los Angeles since losing to the Lakers 73-70 on Monday, snapping a five-game winning streak. Jason Terry's basket tied the score at 70 with 10 seconds remaining, but the Lakers responded with Derek Fisher's 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds to play.
Dallas' defense couldn't be blamed for the loss, as it limited the Lakers to 38.2 percent shooting. The Mavericks are allowing an average of 76.8 points on 37.8 percent shooting in their last six games.
The offense couldn't get going, however, shooting a season-worst 35.0 percent and 15.4 percent from beyond the arc (4 of 26).
"I thought we were competing at both ends, but sometimes you've got to make shots in this league, and we just couldn't do it," said Jason Kidd, who missed 8 of 9 shots. "It was one of those NFC kind of games - just hand off the ball and run. It was just an ugly game.''
Dirk Nowitzki finished with 21 points, and the only other Maverick to reach double figures was Lamar Odom. He scored 10 - his second-best output of the season in what has been a disappointing start with Dallas.
Odom was playing in his first game against his former team after being traded from the Lakers to the Mavericks on Dec. 11. Odom demanded a trade after learning the Lakers wanted to include him in a trade to New Orleans for Paul. The NBA nixed the deal, and the Lakers shipped him to Dallas the next day.
A few days later on Dec. 14, Paul was traded to the cross-town Clippers.
Paul's addition to the Clippers has the franchise poised to end years of frustration.
The Mavericks have been giving Los Angeles fits for the last decade having won 39 of the last 48 meetings. Dallas has won 10 straight over the Clippers since a 103-92 loss on Nov. 9, 2008.
Paul, averaging 18.0 points and 8.4 assists, isn't the only newcomer for the Clippers this season, as Chauncey Billups and former Maverick Caron Butler signed as free agents in December.
Butler has started all 11 games and is tied with Billups for third on the team in scoring, averaging 16.0 points.