FanPost

2009-2010 Most Memorable Clippers: Games

[Note by Steve Perrin, 06/10/10 5:57 PM PDT ] I love this post by Citizen ClipperTheorist.  It's the kind of thing I all the time tell myself I should write, but I never actually do.  See my comments in italics below.  The punchline is that I missed all of two of these games, and most of the third - and I probably only missed five games all season.

Before we all go head first into the draft, free agency, and the 2010-2011 season, I wanted to have another chance to look back at the 2009-2010 season and try to reflect on my most memorable games of the season. Here, I list my 3 and analysis to go with them. Please feel free to leave comments on your most memorable games or even just about these 3 particular ones.

1) Clippers VS Grizzlies: 98-88 W 11/29/09

This was the 3rd time the Clippers played the Grizzlies in the month of November, but was the most memorable of the three. Gordon was coming back to the starting lineup from an injury and the Clippers were coming from a road trip featuring a 73-86 loss in Indiana (where hometown hero Eric Gordon came off the bench with a team low -22 +/- along with 6 points and 3 turnovers). The Clippers needed a good win to rejuvenate their season, but things were not looking so good when the Clippers went down by 20 points in the third. LAC wouldn't give up hope so easily.

The Clippers then went on a memorable run powered by Eric Gordon to win the game by 10! Eric Gordon had 29 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. This was one of the big games from Gordon this year.

A holiday weekend game...  the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was in Cabo San Lucas with the family.  When I left on the trip, I assumed my laptop and NBA League Pass subscription would cover me, but no such luck as it doesn't work outside of the US.  So I sat there watching the play-by-play feed on espn.com.  Sometime in the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies lead was growing, I became disgusted and went back to my family.  When I checked the final score later, I was surprised to see that the Clippers had cut the final deficit to 10.  It took me a while to realize that they had actually won!

2) Clippers VS Celtics: 92-90 W 12/27/09

Up until this game, the Celtics were showcasing their status as a champion contender. They had a 23-5 record and were on a 3 game winning streak, winning their last 14 of 15 games. The Celtics were not in a slump yet, but the Clippers were still looking to relive their upset over the Celtics just a year ago. With notable contributions from Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Deandre Jordan (Camby was inactive) and Rasual Butler the Clippers would have their wish.

Davis was successful in empowering a Clippers win with his efficient 7-11 shooting along with making all 9 of his free throw attempts. His ability to penetrate the Celtics mythological defense electrified his team through 13 direct assist and a team total of 25 assists. One of the  most memorable clips from this game would involve Davis flying into the paint, drawing help defense, and finally giving an assist for an emphatic Rasual Butler three (the Clippers' new franchise leader in 3 pointers made).

The Clippers big men also made some nice contributions.  Deandre Jordan has 6 points to go with 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots giving the Clippers some needed rebounding in a game where Glen Davis had 5 offensive rebounds. Chris Kaman had a very impressive game with another almost-30-point-scoring game. Kaman totaled 27 points and 12 rebounds (!) while battling Perkins, Wallace, and KG. When you think about how effective at times the Celtics have been in their paint defense, you begin to really appreciate Kaman's effort here along with Davis's great playmaking this game.

Oh yeah, Baron also hit his patented turn-around-fade-away jumper to win the game for the Clippers. He helped keep 2 traditions from a year ago:  making an individual player pay for missing free throws (Rondo) and making a heavily commercialized buzzer beater like Novak a year ago. This was a special win for the Clippers fans and one of the better memories of the season.

First Thanksgiving, now Christmas!  Two days after Christmas, I was in Tahoe with the family.  No broadband access at the In-Law's cabin, so no Clippers for Steve.  I couldn't even monitor the score.  The ClipperWidow appreciates it when she gets these little in-season breaks from the madness - and I guess I should go away more often if the team is going to have improbable wins when I do.  I watched this game on the DVR when I got back.  As for Kaman, I have this to say - the Celtics pride themselves on playing man-to-man and not having to double team people.  Kendrick Perkins basically shut Dwight Howard down in the playoffs one on one, which took Orlando completely out of their game.  Obviously it was regular season, less at stake, no Paul Pierce, etc.  But Chris Kaman FEASTED on Perkins in single coverage that game - destroyed him.  Unfortunately, no other team in the league is stubborn enough to single cover Kaman - he's too good against the single, and there's little reason not to double him considering his performance against it and given the rest of the roster.  But you can make an argument that Kaman is the best center versus man single coverage in the NBA.  Think about it.

3) Clippers @ Grizzlies: 102-104 L 1/12/10

This was not one of the better memories of the season. The Clippers were coming into this came breathing fire. They had just won their last 4 games, had decimated all the leagues best shooting guards in wins over the Trailblazers, Lakers, and Miami and were one win away from reaching the comforting. 500 win percentage (like reaching 11 points in a game of 21). This was the fourth and  final game of the season between the two teams where the Clippers were leading the season series 2-1. The last time these two teams met, the Clippers made a huge run in the end to win the game. This time, Watergate happened.

There were 47.8 seconds left in the 3rd quarter and the Clippers were up 89-77 while shooting a burning 63.3%. Davis already had a triple double and was just about to shoot another free throw. Suddenly, an emergency warning sounded on the scoreboard and the whole arena was told to evacuate. A fire, gunmen, or a disaster were all possibilities! Clippers fans would look around the internet fruitlessly to try and figure out when their team would play again and what had actually transpired. The game was delayed for around 20 minutes, and would now resume. Clippers fans might have wished for the game to be rescheduled in retrospect.

After the water main broke down, so did the Clippers' backbone. Their chilling shot percentage after the disaster was reminiscent of the frosty conditions they had to wait in before play had resumed. The Grizzlies would go on to one-up the Clippers previous come back game and send the Clippers into a tailspin they would never recover from. Still, this was just be the beginning of the earthquake that would devastate LAC. 

One day after the deflating game, the Clippers received an aftershock when it was announced that Blake Griffin would undergo season ending surgery. Clippers fans had dreamed up all along that if the Clippers could just hold on to a 0.500 winning percentage, Blake Griffin might jolt the team to playoff contention. Instead, Blake Griffin's injury would further dampen the season and end the hopes of 0.500 and the playoffs.

I was in class when this game was on.  I had my laptop with me, and followed the first half via the play by play.  When I found out that Kaman wasn't going to playing, I completely wrote the game off.  The Clippers had been terrible playing shorthanded all season.  I was shocked to see the early results - DeAndre Jordan was all over the box score!  I stopped monitoring the game at halftime so as not to ruin the DVR experience. 

Of course, the half hour I add to all my DVR recordings wasn't actually enough to catch the end of the game given the 37 minute delay.  The Clippers were fast osing their lead when my recording ran out... I had to wait for the end of the replay on Prime Ticket.  It was a strange night.

Of course, plenty has been written about how that night was the turning point in the Clippers season.  Other than a star player being lost to injury (and I mean one that was actually playing, so the Griffin thing doesn't count in this case), I don't think you can point to a more definitive moment when a season turned in the history of the NBA.  That may be hyperbole... but I honestly can't think of a better example.  Would the Clippers have made the playoffs had that water main not burst?  Of course not, don't be ridiculous - Griffin would still have been lost the next day, and reality was going to set in at some point.  But the double whammy ended the season right there.

Conclusion

It was an interesting experience writing this post and comparing my memories of those games to the actual statistics. For example, I did not remember Kaman having such a big effort against the Celtics or exactly how dominant the Clippers were in their final game against the Grizziles before the evacuation. There are probably a lot more games that were also very memorable throughout the season.

So Clipsnation, what are your most memorable games of the Clippers season, and why are they significant to you?

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