A very pedestrian looking Elton Brand sank a mid range jumper from the left side of the court to seal the game with less than a minute to go. The Clippers had the ball in their hands with 16 seconds left in regulation with a chance to win the game, but no clear game plan ever formulated in those few precious moments.
What did happen was a bunch of Baron dribbling into trees and jacking up a prayer that had no chance in the universe. Thornton and Camby scrambled for the rebound, tipping it to no avail. Time expired. Another tough loss.
But I saw a lot that I liked tonight. I hate to sound spiteful but I thought the Clippers looked much better without Cuttino and Thomas. It felt like the offense was flowing much better in the front court. The wings, with Ricky Davis and Gordon - definitely showed a lack of punch. They were definitely not used to having the ball in their hands so much.
I want Ricky to get his stroke back and I want more minutes for Gordon to develop. I want Gordon to go into the lane and not get foul calls. I want him to shoot all the nervous airballs he wants. (All up to a reasonable amount, of course)
The point is I want Gordon to work out his rookie "jitters" or weaknesses and get accustomed to NBA defenders and refs. Remember all those airballs Kobe chucked up hoping to make game winners when he just came into the league? Kobe was wildly inconsistent, frustratingly bad at the worst times. Yes, it was a long time ago, I know and I am not saying Gordon will be a Kobe. Definitely not.
But all these new minutes opened up with Mobley's absence has got me really excited to see Gordon develop. Let's face it. The Clippers look like they're lottery bound. Why not develop chemistry with Baron, Gordon, Thornton, Randolph and Kaman. They are the new "foreseeable" core of the future!
R2D2 can opt out next year if he wants. Camby's probably only here for this year and next and then it will be DeAndre time.
Of course I want the Clippers to win now but more importantly I love watching the Clippers play well. They have lost a couple close games now but I think that's an improvement.
In the beginning of the year, they were getting blown out like a high school girl's JV team. Then they starting playing well for three quarters but totally falling apart in the fourth, never able to take a lead. Then they got to the point where they could overtake teams but not hold on until the end.
Now they are at the point where they are losing the game in the first quarter. What I mean by that is they fall so far behind early that they run out of gas right at the end when they need it. They need to learn how to get off to better starts and defeat opposing teams early. (They overcame 15+ point deficits in the last two games.)
It just takes time, but I believe it will happen. I saw this Clipper team in 2004. Do you remember? Always losing games by less than 5 or 6 points? They were always so close, but just not able to seal the deal. By the next year, all those close game experiences had taught them how to avoid getting into those situations, and how to hold off opponents at the end. Then it was two rounds of playoffs.
Of course they went a whole season like that because that team did not have enough pieces. They were missing that one piece that would turn them into a playoff contender. Sam Cassell.
Randolph Here, Brand There
This team won't have to go through a whole season of losing close games because we have enough bullets, as they say. Zach Randolph may not be the best defender around but he is a legitimate 20/10 guy. Adding him to the team can be that final piece in turning this ship around.
Yeah, losing to Brand hurt yesterday but I didn't mind so much. His performance was bland. He got blocked, missed a lot of shots, didn't have much lift on his jumpshot. His facial expressions seemed kind of sad or maybe even ashamed. Maybe his poor performance was due to the fact that he had to face Dunleavy, knowing he should have at least been man enough to call and say he changed his mind.
He looked very average at best, almost undersized and old especially up against the 7 foot Energizer bunny that Kaman 3.0 seems to be turning into. Kaman got the best of him, blocking his shots and outrebounding him over and over all throughout the game.
So all in all it was a tough loss, I know. But keep your hopes up Clipper fans. I believe a bright future is right around the corner.