The Clippers lost an 18 point halftime lead on their way to losing their most winnable game in their first seven this season. They also played the final 33 minutes of the game without Baron Davis, who left early in the second quarter after injuring his hip in a nasty fall under the basket and did not return. Unfortunately, Baron fell on his left side, the same side where he has an injured finger. He may or may not have been able to brace himself had he not been injured, but it cetainly appeared that he chose NOT to break his fall with his injured hand.
When Baron went out, the Clippers had a 9 point lead. So what's really surprising isn't the fact that they lost the game, so much as the fact that they were able to double their lead before halftime without him.
In the end, there are really two numbers you have to know about this game: Nene plus 30, Baron Davis plus 9. When both were on the floor, the teams were pretty evenly matched. Nene missed significant portions of the first and second quarters with foul trouble, which is when the Clippers built their lead. But in the end, Baron played only 13 minutes and Nene played 35 - advantage and game, Nuggets.
Nene was a beast tonight, and if he can stay healthy and play like that, he'll make people in Denver forget all about Marcus Camby. In fact, with Nene back at 100%, this team is suddenly very good again when Carmelo Anthony is in the lineup. They still have no bench, and in particular their front court reserves are pathetic. But their starting lineup is very, very good.
Looking at the numbers from the game, it's amazing that the Clippers were in it at all. They went almost 8 minutes at the end of the game without a made basket before Tim Thomas finally converted with 16 seconds to go. They shot 38% as a team and made only 3 of 16 three point shots. Cat Mobley and Chris Kaman, two players whom you would expect to be crucial in the absence of Baron Davis, were a combined for 9 of 33. With Baron out and Mobley and Kaman ineffective, Al Thornton (30) and Thomas (20) tried to keep the Clippers in the lead. Unfortunately, the team seemed not to recognize that Denver was guarding Al (6'8") with Anthony Carter (6'2") for most of the quarter. With the game on the line, MDsr choose twice to go to Thomas. He delivered the first time with 16 seconds to take a 2 point lead. But with the game once again tied and 8 seconds remaining, Thomas didn't even get a shot away.
The game probably would not have been close had Baron been able to play. But the irony is, he's clearly the guy who would have the ball in that situation. In fact, that's exactly what happened earlier in the game when he converted a tough bankshot at the end of the first quarte. Without him out there, who do you go to? I would have opted for Thornton. MDsr picked Thomas.
The semi-good news is that Chris Kaman had an active game with 15 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. It's only semi-good as Chris took 15 shots to get those 15 points, and only made 4 of them. He also had not one, not two, but three classic Mr. Flippy moments - in all three, he cuaght the ball on the right side of the basket, and instead of going strong with the right handed dunk, for some reason that no one but Chris can possibly know, he decided to go under the hoop and shoot the left-handed reverse flip (hence the moniker). Why does he do this? It's completely maddening. He actually made one of them, and he got fouled on the other two. But it doesn't justify this crazy tendency. Why does he intend on making easy shots into difficult ones?
And Al Thornton looked good, scoring in a variety of ways en route to his 30. Someone is going to have to step up and help him on offense. But unfortunately, with Baron and Camby hurt, this is very much the same team that won 23 games last season.
Hopefully we'll find out more about Baron's status soon. For now, according to Ramona the Pest, he's doubtful for tomorrow night in Utah and will "most likely stay home and get treatment." So, with that in mind, I'll leave you with one other pair of +/- numbers from tonight's game. Jason Hart, minus 25 in 29 minutes, Mike Taylor +7 in 12 minutes. Draw your own conclusions.