I hate Clipper day games.
For as long as I can remember, every day game I watched was usually a terrible loss. The Clips usually start the game half asleep and then wake up in the third or fourth quarter only to put in too little, too late.
So I debated watching this one, choosing to watch it later, mashing on the forward skip button to bypass all the frustrating sleeping Clipper parts.
Sure enough, the Clippers look like zombie versions of themselves and let the Griz shoot over 60% in the first half and trail by 15 at the half. God, why do I even put myself through this?
Third Quarter? More of the same. Lazy D. Sloppy O. Griz up by 20 at one point.
Then something happened. In the last 5:30 minutes of the fourth quarter the Clips went from being down 88-76, to winning by ten, 98-88. Simply put, the Clips turned up the defensive intensity, deflecting and bothering, blocking and denying - and the Grizzlies played not to lose and lost all aggression.
Incredible AFTERNOON win!
After it sank in, that the Clips actually won, I thought I might go back and try to analyze who or what sparked this improbable outcome.
HOW THE CLIPS OVERCAME A DEFICIT IN THE FOURTH QUARTER AND WON
First and foremost, you have to know that I tried to analyze this because the Clippers have been HORRIBLE in the fourth quarter in almost every game this year.
When the Clippers did have a lead going into the fourth, the offense usually dies, they turn the ball over and they somehow barely scrape out a victory OR proceed to hang their heads and get totally blown out.
If they didn't have a lead going into the fourth, forget about it - the game was over. At least until the last game in Detroit - which none of us could see because some TV truck caught fire as Chris Kaman sparked a comeback on the court.
So that leaves us sifting through today's game to make sense of what went right and what we should hope for looking ahead.
Comeback Reason #1: Grizzlies Played to Keep Lead, Lost Aggression, Lost Momentum
Watching the Grizzlies implode today reminded me of why the Clippers have imploded in more than a few games this year. It might seem a bit vague and hard to explain...but the best word for it is - momentum.
Momentum is always noticeable over a series of plays, but it can be sparked by one play or even an interaction between crowd, coaches, refs and players.
How does a team on the road (with the lead) lose momentum? What the Clippers have done way too often, and what the Grizzlies did today was start playing the clock.
I noticed that there were a couple of critical plays toward the beginning of the fourth quarter where the Grizzlies had a wide open lane to the basket. Sure, Gasol is not a point guard but if they were losing and he saw that opening I'm positive he would have taken it, made the layup or at least gotten fouled trying.
But what did they do? They didn't even look to attack. They pulled it back to setup their half court offense and hopefully drain clock. Their focus shifted from attacking with aggression to dribbling and passing as much time away as they could before taking a shot. Questionable strategy at home, horrible choice on the road.
Holding onto the ball longer means the defense has more time to setup and play better against you. Passing it around more means your opponents have a better chance of stealing the ball. Waiting to shoot until there's only a few seconds left, may likely result in a low percentage/high difficulty shot.
But most of all, playing clock gives momentum to the other team - especially on their court.
This is what happened to the Grizzlies today and what the Clippers should learn from.
Even if the other team hands you the momentum, completely gift wrapped, you still need energetic, good decision makers along with timely shot makers to take it and win. Which brings us to...
Comeback Reason #2: Eric Gordon
The Good: Although it was a team effort, EJ had a big part in sparking the comeback. He had his usual quiet game face on. Since his jump shots have been kind of shaky since his return, he wisely put his head down and charged the basket. When he wasn't finishing the break, he was passing ahead to Al, assisting on the charge back. His energy late in the third and throughout the fourth was a big part of their comeback win.
The Bad: Looks like he might have hurt his groin again. Prime showed him on the sideline with our infamous trainer whose name shalt not be mentioned. His face showed some pain as he reached towards his hamstring/quad area. He was taken out of the game with around a minute left and I did not see him on the bench or anywhere else at all for the rest of the broadcast. Hopefully he just cramped up as Milph was implying.
Comeback Reason #3: Baron Davis 2.0
Last year, he sucked. This year he looked OK but he wasn't living up to those $65 million expectations - until now.
Give Baron credit where credit is due. I KNOW. He still jacks up some bad shots, but WE KNEW that was part of his game coming here, correct?
But now I don't mind so much. Why? Because he is EARNING the right to take those shots.
Baron has been aggressive. Shot blocking. Stealing (today, diving on the floor). Driving. Penetrating. Dishing. Leading the break. Trailing the break. Getting into the paint. Making some timely 3s. Making some important free throws.
Baron 2.0 is here and I love it. You can sense that he's enjoying the game and that he's heathy enough to impose his will on the game. Sure, some nights his shot may not fall, but over the last week he has emerged as a leader - pushing this team to victory.
Before the game, Baron said that the Clips are still a work in progress. It seems that he has finally accepted the fact that he must do a lot of the work to make the team progress.
Comeback Reason #4: Team Defensive Intensity
Wow. Watch the last five minutes of this game and you understand why the Clippers are the 3rd best in the NBA in blocks per game. They got after it.
Dunleavy needs to show this team the last five minutes of this win before every game to remind them of how annoying and pestering and irritating their defense can be IF THEY ALL PLAY HARD & TOGETHER.
A 12-0 run would have won the game. But they were so pumped up and so full of energy they did not let up until the final buzzer went off. They need to learn to start games that way as well.
Comeback Reason #5: John Lucas
Assistant coach John Lucas seems like a component the Clippers sorely missed last year.
In today's game, "Luc" (as Milph call him), was ANIMATED. Even with his foot in a walking boot (don't know if he broke something or what) he was IMPLORING the team to make a comeback.
Go back to the beginning of the fourth quarter as Prime showed the faces of all the bench guys. No life. They all looked beaten. Ready to take a shower and call it a day.
But Lucas was cheering and jumping on one leg anytime his players did something positive (As opposed to Dunleavy who just claps a few times and barks out directions for the next play). What a refreshing difference.
Today, I think Luc had a big part in keeping the Clips' hopes alive, when it seemed like they were on their way to getting blown out. I wish I had more to go on, but from what I did see in the broadcast I noticed he was standing a lot, cheering, hugging and waving wildly, first off the bench on every time out to cheer the guys on. It seemed like his energy was really motivating the guys to play hard.
If you look closely at today's game maybe you will see what I saw as well. It just left me thinking he must have been quite a competitor when he was a player himself.
I hope Dunleavy shows the team video of the end of this game so they remember how much effort and energy they need to have in order to get positive results.
It'll be very interesting to see what kind of energy the Clippers bring on Wednesday vs. Houston.