Coming off the five day layoff the Clippers had hoped to get some key guys healthy, but instead they wind up playing their first game since Nov. 24 without the services of Zach Randolph. Before the game we learned that Dallas would be without their own leading scorer in Dirk Nowitzki (serving a one game suspension), but unfortunately the Mavs didn’t miss him much today, and operated like a professional team on a business trip, while the Clippers continued a trend of (3) bad losses that started in Milwaukee last Saturday. There have been some valid excuses (dead-tired starters, w/out Camby, w/out Randolph), but we’ve seen how better teams like San Antonio, Utah, and Dallas today have competed without their star players so far this season, and we don't seem nearly as capable.
The 1st Quarter: To say that the Clippers got off to a sluggish start today would be a gross understatement. Unfortunately for the Clips; when two evenly matched teams mix it up (the line was LAC by 1), the game can often be decided early, and today Dallas easily reached a double digit lead within a few minutes. On offense, I’m not sure the Clippers have looked worse all season, taking turns shooting a string of contested jumpers, while having no answer for Josh Howard and the Mavs’ efficient offense. To put it in perspective, after over seven minutes of play, Marcus Camby was our only scorer, with six points. After the 1st quarter was over, he accounted for eight of our thirteen points. Mavericks 24, Clippers 13. Dunleavy’s 1st timeout comes with 5:48 remaining.
The most encouraging part of the game came early in the 2nd quarter, where the improbable lineup of Jason Hart, Eric Gordon, Fred Jones, Al Thornton & DeAndre cut the lead to two about midway through the quarter. Hart’s aggressive play really stood out, Gordon was creating & executing, while the new acquisition Fred Jones was showing more than competent play, highlighted by a “look what I found” deflection that he took coast to coast for an impressive layup. What’s also notable is that DeAndre Jordan is on the floor again during an explosive come from behind run. Coming out of Dallas’ timeout, it’s clear that the momentum isn’t carrying forward. BD finally checks in with 4:21 left, Clippers down six. His uninspired play continues, and the Clippers give up the rest of their gains from earlier in the quarter. Mavericks 45, Clippers 34. Baron Davis zero (0) points at the half.
The second half began and ended in a see-saw fashion that featured some more spirited play from Baron Davis, but the Clippers only threaten to fully come back, and can never string big plays together in order to make it happen. Dallas makes it all the more difficult by completely dominating the glass.
Finishing at 41.7% from the field, Dallas didn’t shoot particularly well, but they made up for it in rebounding (53-38), three’s (9-22), minimizing turnovers (7), and making their free throws (19-21). The Clippers poor shooting (38%) can be attributed to the lack of a post presence and their overall inability to attack the rim while being unable to hit from outside. Another way to sum up this game was that Dallas had Josh Howard (29/9 & 7 assists), and the Clippers couldn't stop him, or counter with a player of his caliber tonight.
The unexpected output from the bench (22 points) was a welcome surprise for the Clippers, and was the only reason the game was competitive in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Fred Jones looks like a solid addition, and Mardy Collins looked like he might be beginning to carve out his role on the team, converting on his first three inside shot attempts, but on his fourth attempt he hogged the ball badly and forced up a shot that was blocked, resulting in one of the ugliest possessions of the night.
The Clippers have proven to be a decent team with Randolph at full strength (6-6), and among the worst in the league without (2-15), but still there was some room for optimism for those who remembered that our first win of the season came against Dallas at home. As it turned out, with the exception of Camby (16/12 & 5 blocks), the Clipper starters didn’t show up tonight. BD was about as bad as we’ve seen, EJ had it going in the 2nd quarter, but struggled in the 2nd half. He got tripped up on a number of plays trying to drive, and got stuffed on a transition layup where he should have passed to his wing-mate. Thorton favored the jumper, in going 3 of 9 from the outside, and 3 of 6 from close. The revolving door at Power Forward was mixed between below average and worse.
Next up: Visiting Sacramento on Wednesday, and hosting Philadelphia on NYE.
Obviously, there are a lot of concerns with our team right now, and with the playoffs becoming more and more of an impossibility, the focus of this veteran-laden team is hard to figure going forward.