The Clippers never trailed today at Staples Center, dominating the Miami Heat on the way to their fourth straight double digit victory 94-84. It was an impressive performance (ignoring the meaningless fourth quarter, in which Dwyane Wade didn't even play). It started with the defense, which was superb. The Clippers have been rotating almost flawlessly during this solid streak of play, and today was arguably their best effort. It matters against the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, because they will force your defense to scramble, whether it's because you decide to double team them, or because they beat single coverage. They will draw extra defenders at some level, and you have to rotate to the open players. The Clippers are playing significantly better team defense today than they were in November. I think the first three quarters of this game are overall the best the Clippers have played this season.
I'm at Staples, and need to head back to Long Beach, so I'm going to throw a quick post up now, and do some more big picture stuff later. For now, these are essentially the notes I was taking during the game, without a lot of editing.
- The Clippers dominated the first quarter. After the game was tied 12-12, the Clippers closed the quarter 18-8, and nothing came easily for the Heat. Miami got a little lucky to score even eight. They got a Beasley three after a scramble for the ball, and a couple other ugly buckets.
- I don't know how many deflections the Clippers got in the quarter, but it was a lot.
- I couldn't help thinking in the first half how far the Clippers would have been ahead if the Heat hadn't blocked a bunch of easy shots. Not all blocked shots are the same - sometimes you block a shot that may or may not have gone in. The Heat got blocks on multiple layups and bunnies - seemingly out of nowhere. You have to give them credit for not giving up on plays. They blocked 7 shots in the first quarter, and most of those shots should have been points.
- The second quarter started with Al Thornton doing what we hoped he would do as a sixth man - create points for the second unit. On the first three possessions of the quarter, with Baron Davis and Eric Gordon both resting, Thornton scored five points and set up Craig Smith (who made one of two free throws after getting fouled.
- Dwyane Wade was sitting on 2 points a couple minutes into the second quarter when he got a steal and a dunk. The play happened right in front of me and I had a great angle on it. The minute Mardy Collins threw a lazy, left-handed bounce pass, I know Wade was off. From there, he went on to score 9 more points in the quarter in an attempt to get Miami back into the game.
- Kaman's jump shot was off for the second game in a row, but he was awfully good around the basket. He also rebounded like a madman, finishing with 14. Along with Camby (17) and Craig Smith (7), the Clippers big man rotation outrebounded the entire Miami team, 38-36. Overall, the margine was 49-36.
- Because they were getting killed in the middle, Eric Spoelstra played Jamaal Magloire 21 minutes. I think we can call that an act of a desperate man.
- The Clippers (other than Baron) don't seem completely comfortable in an all-out, helter-skelter pace. Eric Gordon's lob to Rasual Butler was simple not good . MDsr mentioned this same thing in his post-game press conference. The team went for the spectacular play a couple of times on the break, when they didn't need it. "Keep it simple." (I don't think that applies to Baron - he can go for the spectacular.) Along those same lines, although it wasn't in transition, Eric's behind the back pass to Kaman in the third was TERRIBLE. There's no reason to make that pass. Keep it simple.
- Watching Marcus Camby every day for the last season and a half I realize something. One of the reasons he is a constant fixture at the top of the charts in rebounding is that he goes after everything. Sometimes, he knows he can't possibly control the rebound, so he'll just slap at it, and sometimes the Clippers get the ball on a tap out or whatever, but of course that doesn't count as a rebound. However, when he slaps the ball towards the rim, it counts as a board. He misses a lot of those taps, but he makes some too. Either way, if he actually gets the ball back up on the rim, it's a rebound, and he gets at least two or three a game on average I'd guess. Other players aren't even trying for those balls.
- I don't think I've ever seen less communication than on the double foul call in the first half. Of course if either Joe Forte or Dick Bavetta is up against 95% of the other refs in the NBA there's no question who wins the debate. But against each other, it's a tie. How can a play have both a charge and a block at the same time? Of course it can't. Instead of assessing two fouls, it would have made more sense to assess no fouls. Either way, it's a strange call. Of course, the Clippers controlled the subsequent jump ball and scored, so it didn't end up hurting them.
- Wade was pissed at half time that they didn't get a stop. He slammed the ball down hard.
- Watch the play early in the second half. EJ scores with a floater, which is great... but it's what happened next that was special. He beat Wade and made the tough floater (a shot I didn't know he had in his arsenal) and then SPRINTED back to pick up Wade on the other end. He got to him quickly, cut him off on the baseline, and then fought over the top of a screen as Wade retreated, forcing an illegal screen call, and getting the ball back for the Clippers. That was a special sequence - to best Wade on both ends of the floor in succession - and it's why he's not just another young shooting guard.
- In the third, the Clippers took a little shot from the Heat, and then beat them back down again.
- Following up on the West/East post from the other day, and realizing that Miami could have had an off game today, this is NOT a good team. Wade is astounding. And Beasley has talent. And the rest of the roster is pathetic. I'm talking 3 through 14 may not be in the league much longer. They play OK defense... but how can they possibly score enough points to win playing essentially two on five?
- Interesting lineup to start the fourth quarter for the Clippers. Chris Kaman and four guys between 6'6" and 6'8" - Mardy Collins at the point and Craig Smith at the four. It got even more interesting a few minutes later when MDsr went to Smith, Thornton, Butler, and the Davises. Of course, with a 21 point lead to start the quarter and Dwyane Wade taking the fourth off, MDsr can be forgiven for experimenting a little. It's too bad he had to come back with Baron, but Mardy was not getting and done, and with Telfair out he had little choice.
- The one thing Mardy has to do if he plays the point is take care of the ball. But today he had three turnovers in 12 minutes. And they were all BAD turnovers, leading directly to points for Miami.