There’s being on the right side of history. And there’s the other side.
The Clippers played a part of history Sunday afternoon, when they trailed 77-27 at halftime, that 50-point deficit the largest in NBA history. In fact, no NBA team had before outscored an opponent by 50 points in any two-quarter span, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
When time expired, the Clippers had lost, 124-73 — the largest deficit in team history, eclipsing a 154-104 loss to Seattle in 1988.
Sunday’s performance marked a severe, sudden letdown for a team that started the season with convincing victories against last season’s Western Conference finalists — games in which they led the Lakers wire to wire and trailed the Nuggets for only 2:02.
The Mavericks gave the Clippers — playing without star Kawhi Leonard, who was recovering after receiving eight stitches to close a mouth laceration suffered on Christmas in Denver — a proverbial punch in the mouth early in Sunday’s early game, leaving L.A. staggered.
With team owner Steve Ballmer masked up and seated alone his usual spot on the baseline, bearing witness, the Clippers fell behind 36-13 in the first 12 minutes. Their free fall continued in the second quarter, when they were outdone 41-14.
The dispiriting scene was made more surreal because it was played in the mostly deserted confines of Staples Center, where no fans are attending games because of guidelines in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Starting with that first wildly lopsided half of action, the Mavericks earned their first victory this season and exacted some regular-season revenge on the team that beat them in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last season, a chippy six-game series in which the Clippers won Game 5, 154-111.
In Dallas’ dominating first half, the Mavericks shot 29 for 50 (58 percent), they went 9 for 20 from 3-point range (45 percent), they outrebounded the Clippers, 32-16, they had 20 fastbreak points to the Clippers’ 2.
But what was most stark wasn’t the Mavericks’ NBA-caliber play, but the Clippers’ ineptitude: They shot 9 for 37 (24.3 percent) from the floor and 1 for 19 (5.3 percent) from deep. They were outscored, 34-10, in the paint.
It wasn’t, however, the fewest points a Clippers team scored in a first half; back on Dec. 14, 1999, the Clippers trailed the Lakers 49-19 at intermission (and went on to lose 95-68). And it wasn’t the fewest points in franchise history; the then-Buffalo Braves lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 91-63 on Oct. 21, 1973.
Paul George wound up playing only 24 minutes Sunday, finishing with a team-high 15 points on 4 for 13 shooting. Serge Ibaka contributed 13 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes. And Ivica Zubac finished with 10 points in 16 minutes.
As a team, the Clippers finished 26 for 76 (34.2 percent) from the field.
More to come on this story.