Clippers 97 - Miami 96

Well, that was interesting.

As it happens, I missed the first half.  I forgot to set the TiVo before we left for the grandparents house on Thursday for Thanksgiving, and then we stayed up there a couple days. 

So while the Clippers scored 54 points in the first half, I had the distinct displeasure of watching them put up 14 in the third quarter, and miss 10 straight shots during a stretch covering the end of the third to the beginning of the fourth.  Yeesh.

But then, for about 5 minutes, Baron Davis did what he was brought here to do.  During a 17-3 Clippers run, he assisted on nine of the points, and scored six himself.  The second of consecutive Baron jumpers finished the run, as the Clippers turned a six point 86-80 deficit into a 97-89 lead with 83 seconds left in the game.  These being the Clippers however, they then managed to give up seven straight, and then to turn the ball over on an inbounds play with 7.6 seconds on the clock.  To their credit, they defended Miami's final possessions well, using a foul they had to give with 2.9 on the clock, and forcing Wade into a desperation three as time expired.  They can't do anything the easy way, can they?

About that call: who knows what the hell that was all about?  In the replay, it's very clear that Wade makes contact with referee Courtney Kirkland while Kirkland is out of bounds and while the ball is in Wade's hands.  It's my understanding that in that situation, the referee is considered out of bounds, and if the player is in contact with him then the player is out of bounds.  Clippers ball.  But here's the amazing thing.  The three referees - Kirkland, Greg Willard and Ron Olesiak - huddle and discuss the call.  They spend a good 2 minutes talking about it, which, it would seem, gives them ample time to discuss all the nuances of the situation and get it right.  After their conference, they decide that indeed it is, Clippers' ball.  The Heat are none too happy about the decision, as you might expect.  So Wade explains something to Willard, and he decides that the earlier conference was irrelevant - turns out, they were just kidding before, and in fact it is Heat ball.  I'm pretty sure that Wade's argument went something along the lines of 'Hey, it's me, Dwyane.'  I'm not sure what other explanation there is for reversing the earlier decision.  They didn't look at a replay.  No one re-wrote the rule book in the interim, as far as I know.  As for the explanation that Wade called a timeout in mid-air, before coming into contact with Kirkland, I watched the replay many times, and if he called time out, he did it in ventriloquist, because his lips weren't moving.

So chalk it up as a 'Dwyane Wade' call.  Like the travels and carries he got away with on almost every possession.  Or the play just seconds earlier where he ran over Mike Taylor with no whistle.  [Actually, truth be told, this was a very un-Wade-centric game by the refs - he made it to the line exactly once all night, despite the fact that he was averaging over 10 trips per game coming in.  Still, that out of bounds play was just weird.]

Back to the game: it's nice that the Clippers were able to get a win when their starting center was out and their starting backcourt combine to shoot 8 for 28.  It would just be so nice if the key players could all have a decent game on the same night.  I'm not talking about everyone scoring career highs.  I'm just saying, one game where no one stinks up the joint.  Because although Baron made three straight buckets during the crucial fourth quarter run, before that point he had been 3 for 15, and 1 for 5 from the free throw line.  In Baron's defense, he'd been sick with the stomach flu all day, and must not have been feeling so great.  His backcourt mate, Eric Gordon, after back to back games of 25 and 24, managed only 5 points on 7 shots; drawing the defensive assignment against Dwyane Wade has a way of taking you out of your offensive game, I guess.

But the front court came up big.  Zach Randolph, in his second game as a Clipper, scored 27 points and 13 rebounds - 6 of them on the offensive glass.  He scored 8 straight during the decisive fourth quarter run, including the go ahead three point play the hard way, followed by a corner three to stretch the lead to 4.  So now we see why MDsr wanted to bring him in, and we can all embrace him.  And Al Thornton also scored 27 - on only 14 shots.  Al's shot chart was exactly like we all want it to look after every game - 1 for 3 on jumpers, 7 for 11 attacking the rim, and 14 trips to the free throw line.  Meanwhile, Marcus Camby put up a dozen/dozen, with 12 points and 12 rebounds to go with 3 assists and 4 blocked shots.

The Clippers also did two things in this game that have happened way too infrequently this season - they outrebounded Miami (45-37) and they got to the line more (a lot more, 35-11).  Unfortunately, they also missed 12 free throws, almost costing themselves another game with their foul shooting (and I do mean foul).

But again, this being the Clippers, there has to be some really bad news.  In this case, it's that Eric Gordon spent most of the final quarter on the sideline after tweaking his hamstring.  The good news is that Gordon is 19, and hamstring injuries don't usually linger long for 19 year olds - if it was me, I'd be out for the season.  But we'll have to wait and see.  Camby also spent some time on the bench in the fourth, but Marcus returned for the final two minutes and altered a couple of shots, so hopefully whatever was bugging him is a non-issue.

Nine of the next eleven games are on the road, beginning Tuesday night in Dallas against the suddenly hot Mavericks.  There are some winnable games on the first leg of the trip, starting with the Mavs whom the Clippers have already beaten once this season.  Is a win streak too much to ask for?

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