This is the kind of game where Clipper fans, looking to the future, might be able to see some positive signs and feel decent about--except for the fact that the team decisively lost games to weak teams like the Warriors, the banged up Pistons, and the Raptors in the last 6 days, which takes away the advantage of an almost creditable performance against an elite team like the Celtics. Isn't the idea that, with your playoff quality roster finally healthy, you go out and start learning how to win against your lottery compatriots, and then you try to stay on the floor and compete with the big boys? So how do you factor the equation when you file pathetic efforts against your fellow also-rans, and then briefly show that you still have something of a pulse against the Celtics mediocre bench? Regardless of the complexity, it still doesn't amount to much.
I have to say that I had a DVR malfunction of a game that started right around when I like to finish my siesta and take a look around the shop, so I missed seeing Celtic Pride in all its glory and Kevin Garnett making every shot, the Clippers apparently missing a bunch of layups and adding 5 turnovers as a sweetener. It was 24-12 when my machine started working, and it seemed that Milph had already settled in for another installment of the exquisite defeatist stylings of Ralph Lawler, an epic that puts the Mahabharata to shame. It's not just a question of how many losses Ralph Lawler has narrated, but how many of them have been convened when they were meaningless and the Clips were out of contention--it's a number in the hundreds if not the thousands, and this was yet another one of those. Ralph Lawler is classic in every way, and as much as his Milph/MDSr incarnation has a jaunty semi-NBA credibility, you still have to wonder about the psychic cost of maintaining an unflinching gaze out on the Clipper wasteland. Ralph has been out in the desert for a very long time.
And as soon as I started watching there was a little uptick in the Clipper mojo. Garnett was gone, and he was soon followed by Pierce and Allen. The Clips kept it at 10, and then--poof!--The Steve Novak Experience gets a moment of daylight, and the Clips are tied. That's not very exact, and I should probably be more responsible in the absence of CS. What happened is that the Clips got some good play from Kaman and Al Thornton coming off the bench, and Zach Randolph did a good job on the boards and scoring, and a couple of Novak 3s got them back into the game.
If you're looking for positive signs, the Big Three seemed pretty effective. Camby was energized and blocking shots. The Clips did a very nice job on the board, outrebounding the Celtics. That's supposed to be the strength of this roster configuration, and it showed itself just a bit tonight. Zbo looked good, effective and with a nice touch on the offensive end, and grabbing rebounds. He showed some of the effort and effectiveness that made us like him so much when he first joined the team.
So what went wrong? Clipper guards. Baron Davis, at this point, we half-expect to be mediocre or downright bad. He was pretty horrible, and killed a lot of the Clipper momentum at the end of the first half, taking command as the Clips were on the rise and making an impressive series of empty possessions to close out the half.
More disturbing, however, is the continuing slump of Eric Gordon. His stroke was absent once again, and he was forcing things and unable to finish at the rim, and just looked ever so slightly scrub-like. It must be said, since we're all so deeply invested in EJ at this point, that he was a bit of a beast on defense, getting steals and once again blocking shots. Shooting guards really have no business blocking shots, at least not that I can remember, except for guys like Michael Jordan or 2-3s like Kobe Bryant, and certainly not undersized SGs like Gordon. But Gordon had another pair of blocks in this game, and two steals as well--but when we're focusing on Gordon's defensive statistics we're in trouble.
Enter Novak. One thing that MDSr might try to recognize a bit more quickly is that when his rookie scorer isn't hitting, he should try to get his shooting ace off the bench a bit more quickly. Novak did the trick, and the middle 10-12 minutes of the game were quite entertaining if you're a Clipper fan.
After that, not so much. The turning point was when the game was close or tied at 50, and Gordon missed a wide open 3 point look. If he hits it, the Clips are still competing. He misses, and the Celtics score the next 500 points. Eric Gordon has established himself as a focal point of this team, and his subpar play is a big part of the recent losses. It coincides with the fact that he's one of the primary reasons to take an interest in the Clippers right now. He's young, he's a rookie, and he's going to have his struggles, especially on a struggling team. That's just the way it is.
Camby-Randolph-Kaman was better, and they still have another gear or two that they can go to. Zbo, as mentioned, was much sharper, and his 17 and 14 was well-earned. Thornton came back in good form in limited minutes and coming off the bench, although the Clips lost solid utility man Mardy Collins to another dreaded arch tear/tweak. Kaman played a mid-range game, making a nice play or two in the 2nd quarter upswing, making a bonehead play or two in the 3rd quarter collapse.
The Celtics blew out the Clips in the 2nd part of the 3rd and well into the 4th. The Clips actually stemmed the tide and could have kept it closer in the last 5 minutes, but they continued to stumble. Again, there were a lot of positive signs from the Clips if you were looking to salvage a quality loss against one of the best teams in the league. But a team like that would need to beat the inferior teams and show some consistent strength to deserve any credit in a loss like this. So it's the same old same old, and Ralph Lawler continues his sandblasted wanderings.