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Things are not well in Clippers land. After losing to the Pacers 133-116 Monday night, not only was it their sixth loss in their past nine games, but it moved them below the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference standings to the No. 5 spot. It was an important game to win to keep some space between them and the Pelicans, and instead of protecting home court, L.A. fell behind by as much as 23 points to Indiana and are now on the outside looking in of home-court advantage for the postseason.

After the game, Clippers coach Ty Lue spoke about the team's loss and recent struggles, and he didn't mince words. 

"So identity for us, it's got to be toughness," Lue said. "Which means physicality, mental and physical toughness, a high-powered offense — we can score in a lot of different ways — and we got to have a defensive mindset. And so right now, do we have an identity? I think, yeah, we're soft. That can be an identity if you want to call it that. We gotta be tougher, mentally and physically."

The Clippers' play as of late has been a complete 180 compared to the team that went into the All-Star break at 36-17 and sat third in the Western Conference. But since then, the Clippers have had the 11th worst record in the conference at 8-10, and all those losses are finally starting to impact the playoff standings. Lue pinpointed how different his team was playing at the start of the season compared to now and vowed that things would change. 

"We have an identity, when we were 26-5 we had a great identity," Lue said. "You can't pick and choose when you want to lead. You can't pick and choose when you want to have an identity. You can't pick and choose when you want to do things the right way. So just do the right things every night and everything else will fall in order. So, guess we do have an identity, we have to get back to that, because we've had it. But when you lose games, it's easy to go the other way and we're not gonna do that. I'm not gonna let our team do that. I'm tough-minded, I've been through everything and so are these guys. So the only way we're going to get out of it is playing hard for 48 minutes."

There have been a number of reasons contributing to L.A.'s recent struggles, but their biggest issue has been defense. Prior to the All-Star break, their defense ranked around league average at 13, allowing 114.3 points per 100 possessions. Since the break, though, they've freefallen down to the 28th-ranked defense. Specifically, their 3-point defense has been awful since the mid-February break, allowing opponents to shoot nearly 41% from beyond the arc. That mark ranks 29th in the league, and against the Pacers, that porous perimeter defense was on full display as Indiana shot a ridiculous 60.7% from deep. That could be seen as an outlier because the Pacers just got hot from long range in that game. But their loss before that against the Joel Embid-less Sixers -- a team that was ranked 20th in 3-point percentage -- shot 48.6% from deep, which resulted in L.A. getting blown out 121-107.

You could say that teams are just getting hot against the Clippers lately, but L.A. has put up some truly uninspiring performances as of late. Six of their seven wins in March have come against teams with losing records. It's not an ideal time for the Clippers to be sputtering toward the finish line, especially when a matchup against the Pelicans -- who have a 3-1 record against the Clippers this season -- is inevitable in the first round of the West playoffs. 

Perhaps Lue's blunt words after Monday's loss will be enough to fire up a Clippers team that is underperforming with just a couple of weeks left of the season. Otherwise, they could fall even further down the standings, as the sixth-placed Kings and seventh-placed Mavericks are just two games behind them.

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