This season’s Clippers say they’re removed from their troubled past of perpetual losing. But on Friday night, they did nothing to look any different from all of the past losers. Dallas pounded the Clippers, taking a 26-point lead in the first half and routing them 101-81 in front of 17,883 at Staples Center. Coach Mike Dunleavy lambasted his team’s effort afterward, wondering how the Clippers could trail 63-39 at halftime, but then outscore Dallas by eight in the third quarter. The Clippers do not purport to be the most talented team in the NBA, but they claim to play hard defensively and bring an intense effort every night. Dunleavy was at a loss as to why the effort wasn’t there in the first half, and a writer suggested that the Clippers could be “mentally beat up” after starting the season 14-5 and going 6-11 since. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card “I don’t want to hear about ‘mentally beat up’ about anybody,” Dunleavy said. “Because you know what? If you’re mentally beat up, great. I don’t want you. Ultimately, I will figure out a way to move you. The only kind of guys I want are the guys who when the going gets tough, they get a lot tougher.” The Clippers had an ugly start, falling behind 37-21 at the end of the first quarter. Somehow, things got even worse in the second quarter, when Dallas continued to get weakly-contested layups and open jump shots. Dallas got six baskets with fouls in the first half. “It’s not even the fact that we’ve lost games,” Dunleavy said. “To me, it’s how you lose and how you play. If you’re playing your butts off and somebody’s making shots because he’s an All-Pro and you’re two years out of college, I can understand it. But I don’t understand the plays we had tonight, guys going to the rim and laying the ball up, guys going right through the middle of the paint and scoring.” The Clippers are in danger of wasting their start and turning into just another in a long string of bad Clippers teams. “We have to make a decision,” Dunleavy said. “You have to decide who you are and who you’re going to be.” Sam Cassell, who had a team-high 23 points and four assists, was calm after the loss and said there would be a players’ meeting in practice today. Where can the Clippers go from here? “Only up, only up,” Cassell said. “Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. We got to find our swagger.” As for the lapse in effort in the first half, he said, “We do pride ourselves in bringing the effort. We just didn’t bring it. They made layup after layup, three-point play after three-point play. It’s frustrating, man. But we’ll figure it out.” Even Elton Brand, who remains as upbeat as anyone who has entered a seventh NBA season without seeing the playoffs, was critical of himself and his team, repeatedly calling the performance “embarrassing.” A glaring problem this season has been bench contributions, and again, the Clippers’ reserves were annihilated, being outscored 44-18. What Dunleavy says is that all he needs to see from any reserve is a hard-nosed effort with energy. “So far, the only guy who’s doing that is James Singleton,” Dunleavy said. “He’s coming in and playing with great effort, and it’s noticeable. Other guys have to come in and take that lead.” What does he sense about the rest of the guys? “What I sense going on is that we’re feeling sorry for ourselves,” he said. “There’s a whole lot being made that we have a lot of injuries. It’s been well-documented. We know what our injuries are.” Joe Stevens, (562) 499-1338 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!