Clippers Eaten By Raptors, 97-75 (My Al Thornton Rant)

Chris Bosh restored order in the fourth and the fully loaded Raptors feasted on the weary, worn down Clippers. The Clippers were already tired from a 4 game, 5 night midwestern road trip featuring 2 double overtimes with practically no help from the bench last week.

The Raptors had a huge mismatch at both PF and C positions and they took full advantage of it. They played Bosh (6'10", 230), O'Neal (6'11", 260), and Bargnani (7'0",260) against Randolph, Skinner, and Thornton and even Novak. Just to keep count - the Raptors had two talented bigs in Bosh and O'Neal - and the Clippers were missing two talented bigs in Camby and Kaman. (Everybody in my section kept trying to see if Camby was on the bench, if he was even in the building. Nobody had a radio so none of us knew if he got injured or why he wasn't in the game. It really put a damper on most of the fans from the very beginning.)

The difference in size might not be that apparent on TV but sitting there at the Staples Center, I can tell you that the Raptors looked like adults playing against kids. They stuck their arms out and contested or blocked shot after shot and then made layups and little hook shots on the other end. They packed the interior and dared the Clippers to make outside shots. You can guess what happened.

The game was basically over by halftime, 51 - 32.

The Clippers did come out of the locker room, energized and ready to play defense in the second half. They even cut the lead to six points with 57 seconds left in the third. But the valiant effort to get it that close wiped them out.

Soon thereafter, Randolph got kneed by Jake "The Enforcer" Voskuhl and when he went out of the game, the entire crowd could sense that the Clippers had just run out of bullets. Chris Bosh, brimming with Olympic gold confidence, then proceeded to dunk and shoot his team to victory. He even threw in a couple of three pointers, put on a Santa suit and took off on a flying sled, laughing at the Clippers "Ho-Ho-Ho".

Well, maybe he didn't do all of that. But he did make sure that the holidays would be a whole lot merrier for the Raptors.

The Bad

The Clippers again looked stagnant and tired on offense, unable to connect on outside shots, unable to finish at the rim, unable to get rebounds and basically running the ugly "pre Zach", super predicatable isos and contested jump shots - lame, lame offense. But with no Camby or Kaman to match their bigs, no Zach in the fourth, no Mike Taylor to spell Baron, do you know what you have?

One very tired Baron Davis (who got no respect from the refs, as usual), two 19 year old rookies (Gordon and Jordan), a trigger happy Novak, an ineffective pair of Paul Davis and Brian Skinner, a sophmore black hole named Al Thornton, and one barely serviceable Jason Hart.

Al Thornton. He is really starting to frustrate me. When he's open for a shot, he hesitates and does that stupid double jab step, leg shaking like a wobbly chicken. In the meantime that gives the opposition time to get up into him, at which time he decides to take an ill advised, now contested jump shot. He takes awful shots and rarely passes to anyone who actually has a chance to score. His passes are almost always bail out ones. Half the time you can see he just wants to repost and get the ball back.

When he does take it to the rim, he shows the ball way too early. Almost like a great running back who holds the ball way out there without tucking it in. He's just asking for someone to slap it away. When he gets away with it, he looks great. But half the time he floats the ball to the rim, arm outstretched with the ball fully exposed. This isn't college ball anymore. Guys are taller and jump higher than you, Mr. Al Thornton! LEARN HOW TO DUNK IN TRAFFIC. Break some phallanges, please! (Bill Walton is echoing in my head - "Throw it down, big fella! Throw it down!")

Thornton supporters argue that he has great athleticism and he makes tough shots. But he needs to learn how to change his game when things aren't going for him. He needs to learn the importance of getting a better shot at crucial moments in games where his team needs him to NOT give away momentum to the other team by taking a high difficulty shot on a night when he's 1 - 10. When attempts 4, 5 and 6 haven't gone in, you need to play smarter.

The Good

Wow. What can I say to cheer up Clipper Nation?

Well. DeAndre finally got a good chunk of playing time and he was - well, goofy looking. (He tried to dunk after a whistle and the ball flew into section 102 instead. I laughed so loud my friend elbowed me and sank in his seat. He was afraid I'd hurt DJ's feelings or worse, hurt his confidence. I'd never seen a dunk missed that bad before, especially by someone who was purposely trying to throw down HARD and look COOL.)

The only thing he must be good for is dunks because after they got him one alley oop, they kept trying it over and over, forgetting that the Raptors have THREE bigs and a guy named Jamario Moon who can basically jump as high as his last name. "Stop throwing lobs to DJ!", I screamed. They must have heard me because they started throwing them to the Raptors instead.

DJ also looked very scared on offense, basically looking for someone else to take the ball as soon as he got it at the top of the key. You could see the fear in his face everytime he got the ball. It was almost like there was a cartoon bubble above his head that said  - "Oh my god, I'm in an NBA game and I have the ball. Quick, find someone to give it to. I don't want it here. I can't shoot. I can only do dunks on lobs..."

Sorry. This is the good section, right. I forgot. Back to the good.

DeAndre Jordan. 8 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. 3 of 5 from the field (but 2-5 from the line). Not bad for his first extended minutes in actual game time AND the Clippers made the comeback push while he was in the game. (He came in when they were down by 17. They cut the lead to 6 (could have been five if he made his free throws) with 52 seconds remaining. So he didn't hurt the team and he did make some plays that helped bring them closer.

I really hope DeAndre can "get" the NBA and learn how to box out properly, get rebounds and to finish around the rim. He also needs to learn how to soften up those hands. He brought back awful memories of Kwame Brown into my mind.

I used to laugh when the Lakers had him because I thought there was no way the Lakers were a better team than the Clippers when they had him starting at center. He had concrete hands. The ball would literally bounce right out of his hands on every play that might possibly redeem him from the giant letdown he had become.

I sure hope DeAndre doesn't have Kwame hands. I definitely hope he doesn't turn into a Kwame. Can that be taught? He's so young and he has Camby to mentor him but I don't know if those kinds of deficiencies can be overcome with training or if it's just bad motor skills that can't be reversed.


Let's hope they can rest up for the Mavericks and get this ship back on course!

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