Since he joined the New Jersey Nets in a January 2010 trade, Kris Humphries has played the Los Angeles Clippers four times. In those four games, he is averaging 19.5 points and and 11.75 rebounds. He has made 32 of 43 field goals, almost 3 of every 4 shots. He has scored 19 or more points just six times in his eight year NBA career - and three of those games have come against the Clippers since 2010. His career high of 25 points came last year against LA. His career high of 20 rebounds came against them tonight. And most amazingly, he has now outplayed Clippers wunderkind Blake Griffin in both of their meetings this year - a statement that you cannot make about any other power forward in the league.
Behind standout games from Humphries (19 points, 20 rebounds, 8 for 8 shooting), Jordan Farmer (24 points, 5 three pointers) and Brook Lopez (24 points), the Nets came back from 20 points down to beat the Clippers in overtime.
The Clippers looked dominant early. Their first 10 points came on dunks. From a 9-6 deficit, they went on a 35-12 run to build a 41-21 lead midway through the third quarter. But it came a bit too easily. They were getting steals and layups. They were getting dunks. The Nets couldn't make anything. Even while they were building the 20 point lead, the Clippers were struggling to make outside shots (aside from Chris Kaman). Two of their perimeter starters, Ryan Gomes and Mo Williams, combined to make just 4 of 22 shots. But it didn't matter for most of the first half - they were getting layups and dunks, so it didn't matter if the jump shots weren't falling.
Then it started to matter. The Nets cut the lead to 14 going into halftime. Then they came out for the second half energized. The defense stiffened, shutting down the inside game, and the Clippers suddenly needed those jumpers to drop. But they still wouldn't. The result was another terrible third quarter - 31-15 in favor of New Jersey, giving the home team a 2 point lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Clippers came back strong in the final quarter, and would have won the game going away except for one thing: Farmar. The former Laker scored 13 points in the final six minutes, making 5 of 7 shots and 3 of 4 threes. That's 13 points on 7 shots. He scored 13 of 14 points for the Nets in the crucial last minutes of the game, and his three point shooting helped the Nets recapture the lead late after the Clippers had build a six point lead with less than 3 minutes to play.
A couple of days after being the hero in Boston, Mo Williams was definitely the goat in Newark. Not only did he shoot a dismal 3 for 17 from the field - 1 for 14 on jumpers - he was also the guy who was supposed to be defending Farmar in the fourth quarter. The play of the game may have been Farmar's three with 2 minutes left and the Clippers up 5. Having made two threes in the period including one on the prior possession, I was shocked at how wide open Farmar was. I figured it had to have been some elaborate off ball screen that had given their hottest shooter so much space on such a crucial possession. Nope. When I went back to watch the play again on the DVR, it turned out that Williams had just been cheating off, for no particular reason, and lost track of Farmar, who had all day to drain the three, cutting the lead to two.
I also have to question Vinny Del Negro's decision to take Chris Kaman out of the game with 3:48 remaining in regulation. Kaman was on fire in this game - he led the Clippers in scoring and rebounding with 23 and 10. He made 11 of 17 shots, and was easily the Clippers most reliable shooter from the perimeter - a sad but true commentary on the efficacy of their "shooters" tonight. He was +18 for the game, and had been a big part of the fourth quarter surge that turned a 2 point deficit into a 4 point lead in the 8 minutes before he was taken out. Was it a fatigue thing, as Kaman continues to work himself back into game shape? I don't know, but he didn't look tired to me, and unless he had been collapsing from exhaustion, I would have left him out there.
Some may say that VDN was making a defensive substitution, bringing DeAndre Jordan back to defend Lopez. The only problem with that thinking is that Lopez had schooled DJ most of the game, while Kaman had played him pretty well. Indeed, Lopez drew a foul from Jordan (a terrible call, I have to say, but Jordan is rarely going to get the benefit of the doubt) and then beat him for the go ahead score in the final seconds. Lopez then scored the first four points of the OT against Jordan, giving the Nets a four point lead that proved to be the final margin of victory. Kaman returned at that point, and shut Lopez down the rest of the OT, but the damage was done.
I also hated the Clippers possession with 40 seconds to go in regulation. Still clinging to a fragile one point lead after getting a crucial stop on the prior Nets possession, they didn't run much of anything, and seemed content to let the clock wind down. But up one, with 40 seconds in the game, getting a score is MUCH more important than letting time run off the clock. Because frankly, if you don't score in that situation, it becomes a problem that you used up the clock. So run your offense, and get a shot. Get a touch for Kaman, by far you're most effective scorer in the game, for FSM's sake. Instead they held the ball and made a single pass to Ryan Gomes for a three point attempt - the same Ryan Gomes who was 1 for 4 in the game at that point. Just a terribly disappointing possession.
All of this would be moot had the Clippers simply made their free throws. They were 12 for 20 for the game, a mere 60%. It goes without saying that in a game that went to overtime, any and all of those free throws would have made a difference. Of course, it came down in particular to a single free throw. The lead changed hands three times in the final 24 seconds. Farmar made a layup to give the Nets the lead. Griffin scored quickly and LA went back ahead. Lopez then scored to put New Jersey back on top. Finally, with less than 4 seconds left, the Clippers inbounded to Griffin, who faked the pass back to Williams, and blew by Lopez before he was brought down hard at the rim. Griffin calmly made the first to tie the game, but with a chance to win it with 1.2 seconds left, his second free throw rimmed out.
Of course, it's just like the Clippers to beat Boston on Wednesday, and then lose to New Jersey on Friday. They're the only team in the league to have beaten all six division leaders - and one of two teams to have been swept by the Nets. Then again, how do you beat a team with Kris Humphries?