Los Angeles — All good things must come to an end and, for the Detroit Pistons, a two-game winning streak qualified as prosperity in a season where they've stumbled to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
In front of their optimistic owner, the Pistons put forth a pessimistic performance against a team with realistic hopes at a championship, the Los Angeles Clippers. And it didn't take long to see the close game the two engaged in on Black Friday would not be repeated Monday, as the Clippers systematically picked apart the Pistons for a 113-91 victory.
The pained look of despair from Stan Van Gundy — yes, that familiar one he's worn so many times thus far — returned in full force Monday as the Clippers got well after a two-game losing streak, playing nearly at peak efficiency when they needed to before hitting the cruise-control button for the fourth quarter.
"You gotta give them a lot of credit, too," Van Gundy said after lamenting his team's defensive performance. "They played very well. Moved the ball very sharply. They do everything at a very crisp pace with a lot of skill guys."
The Pistons took a modest nine-point lead in the first quarter, playing with more energy and spunk than the Clippers, who looked disinterested in the first six minutes before getting serious in the middle two quarters.
The Pistons were ambushed by way of alley-oop dunks by DeAndre Jordan, layups from Blake Griffin and jumpers from backup point guard Jordan Farmar (12 first-half points), outscoring the Pistons 57-36.
And the Pistons were in a charitable mood, committing the cardinal sin against a team that fuels itself off turnovers, with 12 in the second and third, leading to a parade of easy opportunities — not that the Clippers needed much help in playing efficiently.
Greg Monroe had five of the Pistons' 17 total turnovers, as Glen Davis' girth and Jordan's quickness kept him off guard all night. Davis especially stayed in front of Monroe in the post, forcing the rare five-second backdown violation.
"We started slacking on defense and they started getting the ball off rebounds," said Monroe, who scored 15 off the bench in 20 minutes.
"So it was a combination of both not getting stops consecutively and their getting a lot of second chances off the boards."
It's conceivable the Pistons were satisfied with their two wins on the West Coast swing and conceded early, when the Clippers' offense was rolling. But the fact Griffin and Jordan are better at the things Monroe, Josh Smith and Ander Drummond are shouldn't be ignored, either.
"We couldn't get stops so we couldn't run," Van Gundy said. "They shot the ball well and we couldn't keep up. They totally tore our defense apart."
Oh, and the Clippers' starting point guard, Chris Paul? He put the finishing touches on the decisive third quarter run, scoring 10 and hitting two 3-pointers. Paul let the offense run on autopilot for the first two quarters, as the Clippers shot 56 percent.
When they missed — which was rare before halftime, mind you — they corralled eight offensive rebounds, six from Jordan, to reset the offense and score again, as 20 of their 24 first-half field goals were assisted.
Drummond was the only starter who accomplished much, scoring 14 of his 18 in the first half with six rebounds (13 total), but he couldn't keep his athletic equal, Jordan, off the glass.
The Pistons' offense again looked disjointed and out of rhythm, as they shot 42 percent and missed 19 of their 27 3-point attempts. Jodie Meeks scored a season-high 20, with 13 coming in the fourth after the Clippers built their massive lead, so even Van Gundy wouldn't count that among the positives in a 22-point loss.
Because there weren't any.