Chicago 115 - Clippers 109

I don't have a lot to say about this game.  I suppose I should, but I don't.  Obviously, it was a mistake for Eric Gordon to foul Ben Gordon shooting a three.  Up four with 20 seconds left, that's the one thing you simply can't do.  We'll call it a 'rookie' mistake, but (a) I've seen veterans make the same bonehead play and (b) a 19 year old can certainly do the 3+1 = 4 math and know he's not supposed to do that, rookie or not.  Heat of the moment, competing hard, dumb foul - it happened to cost the Clippers the ball game.

It hurts a little less in light of the fact that the Clippers' OT win in Portland was even less likely than this loss.  It's also encouraging that the team played well in the second half and in the fourth quarter.  They played well enough to win down the stretch, even though they didn't.  It's certainly much less painful than the loss in Dallas where they completely collapsed.

The OT was strange, to say the least.  The officials kind of took over.  The Clippers scored the first three points of the extra frame, but they were done at that point.  They also committed 5 turnovers in 5 minutes, and 3 of those were on referee whistles - a travel and two offensive fouls.  Watching all three plays again, they were all legitimate calls - but they're also the kinds of things that happen all the time.   

And for the second time in three weeks, the Clippers had an officiating crew overturn a call at a crucial point in a close game.  This time, as the Clippers held a one point lead with 2 minutes left in the OT, Al Thornton drove down the lane and was fouled, sending him to the line for two free throws.  Or so we thought.  Some time later, the crew decided it was an offensive foul, and awarded the ball to the Bulls, in a manner unlike any I've ever seen.  In looking at the play-by-play, it appears the eventual call went against Zach Randolph, a fact that was never made clear during the telecast.  Indeed in watching the replay you can see Randolph shove Nocioni, though I'm not sure why or what he hoped to gain.  But what's really, really strange is how it happened.  It's quite freqent with three of them on the floor that different officials have different calls.  What happens is one of them takes over - maybe because he feels he had the better angle, or because he's the crew chief, or whatever.  But two guys come up with conflicting calls, they look at each other, one takes control, one defers, they make the call, we move on.  That's what appeared to happen in this case.  If you watch the original play, you can see the referee on the baseline about to call an offensive foul.  But he defers, it's clearly signaled that Thornton is going to the line, and the Clippers are in position to stretch the lead to three.  The camera was mostly on Al getting ready to shoot free throws, so we don't what form the discussion took.  Did all three officials huddle to discuss the call?  (Normally, that would happen BEFORE a call had been officially indicated, but that's picking nits, I suppose.)  But it was clearly THE momentum changer.  The Bulls scored the final seven points of the game and won by six. 

The Clippers looked tired in the OT - and who could blame them?  In the big picture, that's probably the worst thing about this loss - 5 more minutes of wear on the Clippers' exhausted starters.  All five of them played over 40 minutes, led by Al Thornton with 48 and Eric Gordon with 47.  They also got predictable in the OT.  Or maybe it was a combination of predictable and tired that did them in.  Because, let's face it, they were predictable down the stretch also.  It was Zach on the right block, every time down the floor.  But Zach didn't have the energy to make something out of nothing, and the rest of team did a lot of standing.  Baron wasn't even getting into position to shoot.  He just looked exhausted.

Some final thoughts:

  • How amazing is it that in such a storied career as Marcus Camby's that he would get his career high in rebounding as a Clipper at the age of 34?  He pulled down an astounding 27 rebounds, and was a single point away from a 20-20 game.  He also had 4 blocked shots.  That's a pretty good night, especially for his fantasy owners.
  • Andres Nocioni wins the prize for "NBA player his opponents most want to punch in the face by the end of the game."  And it's not even close.  Dude comes in shooting 38% on the year and makes 8 of 14 and 3 threes.  And by the end of the game, Zach wanted to punch him in the face.
  • What the hell happened to Luol Deng?  He was awful.  But to his credit, although he was 1 for 7 going into OT, he made consecutive jumpers to turn a 3 point deficit into a 1 point lead.  The play where the Bulls took the lead was just one of those moments where you realize it's not in the cards for your team.  Chicago mishandled the ball no fewer than 4 times on the possession, but the Clippers could never come up with it - and Deng sticks a jumper at the shot clock buzzer to give the Bulls a lead the never relinquish.  Sometimes that's how it goes.
  • Has Mike Taylor successfully dunked the ball this season?  I mean in a real game, not just in summer league?  Look I like the aggressiveness, but he's something like 0 for 6 on dunks this season (that's off the top of my head - but he tries it a lot, and I don't remember him finishing a single one).  He's the anti-Kaman.  With Kaman it's "Just dunk the damn ball!"  With Taylor it's "Please don't try another dunk!"
  • It's hard to discern MDsr's pattern with Hart and Taylor.  It seems like he goes to Hart when Taylor pisses him off - like those consecutive turnovers against Houston.  But then he just gets tired of Hart even though he doesn't do anything wrong per se, and goes back to Taylor.  Or maybe he's playing hunches.  But with Chicago being so dependent on the backcourt scoring, I would have thought he'd opt for the defense of Hart.  Or maybe it was a quickness thing, since both Rose and Gordon are lightning.
  • Seven bench points. It's catching up with the team, for sure.
  • Eric Gordon played well, his mistake at the end of regulation notwithstanding.  I will say that he looked a little unsure of himself towards the end.  In the fourth quarter, he got into the lane, didn't even look to shoot, and almost got caught for three seconds.  In the OT, with the Clippers down 4 and still with some hope, he forced a pass to Randolph which Larry Hughes stole. 
  • Baron Davis just is not a good shooter right now.  6 for 23 in this game dropped him down to 38% on the season.  He has been below 50% in each of his last 12 games, and has been at 1/3 or fewer in 4 of those games.  I guess the good news is that the team is playing well despite the fact that Baron can't make a shot - but when is he going to break out of the slump?
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