I suggest that we keep our perspective on this one. Playing without Chris Paul and Mo Williams, the Clippers were bound to have a few sketchy moments today. Also without Brian Cook, and up against Clip killer Kris Humphries, we might have anticipated a few stamina issues along the way. Finally, we all know about our free throw struggles, and games like this one are bound to pop up now and then. The Clips should have been up by well over 20 in the 3rd quarter, but a miserable day for Blake at the line (5-13, and 3-11 before his two makes at the end) kept things way too interesting. Thankfully, the team kept its composure after a Deron Williams 3-pointer tied it at 81-81 with just under 7 minutes to go in the 4th. Chauncey Billups had an imperfect game, but he came through in the clutch with a great 3-pointer and perfect free throw shooting (7-7). Blake also rose up at the end, driving for a crucial lay-in and then finally hitting a couple at the charity stripe. The Clips have two tough road games in front of them, and a loss today would have been damn disheartening. I am happy for the win.
*Great 1st Quarter- The Clips came out and stuck it to the Nets right away. Griffin was all over the court and half way into the stands. Randy Foye dished out 5 assists and only took 2 shots. DeAndre Jordan had 3 blocks, and Caron Butler kept hitting the middle of the net. With a few minutes left, the score was 27-10, and I thought that they might invoke the mercy rule.
*Excellent defense (for 3 quarters)- For most of the game, the Clips held the Nets to under 40% field goal shooting. In particular, they held DWill in check (5-14 overall), with Foye doing most of the work on him. For a while, it seemed like only Mehmet Okur and Johan Petro could make a shot. How strange would THAT have been, had the Nets won behind those two chucking bigs?
*Decent play from a few role players- Had Foye refrained from a couple of those outside shots, and had he made one or two fewer turnovers, and had the game ended about 10 minutes earlier, then I would have nominated him for the game ball. After all, he did have 10 assists, several assertive drives to the basket, and played some solid D on DWill. (Frankly, DWill looked lackadaisical out there, but come on now, let’s give Randy some of the credit). Reggie Evans had four outstanding first half offensive rebounds. He looked pretty gassed later in the 4th, but he never stopped working hard. Trey Thompkins should not fall in love with the 3-ball, but his 5 rebounds in 8 minutes were a very welcome contribution. Finally, Courtney Fortson played 9 mistake-free minutes, with 2 assists and no turnovers. Ryan Gomes looked like a space filler out there, but he did hit a big shot down the stretch.
*Big rebounding advantage- We ended +11, with 14 rebounds for Blake and 9 for DJ. I also thought that DJ boxed out better, at least for most of the game. At one point, I believe we were up +17, but then Humphries and Sheldon Williams picked things up in the 4th. Or did we just get winded? I mean, how can SWill be the one who beats you? That would have been even stranger than a shooting barrage from Okur and Petro.
*No Brian Cook- Maybe Vinnie Del Negro will start to buy into using Thompkins now. He certainly didn’t do any worse than Cook, and he has more upside.
*Free throw shooting (What else?)- The Clips nearly shot themselves out of this one. Griffin, Evans, DJ, and Caron Butler combined for a gruesome 10-26. Yikes. In the 3rd quarter, as the Clips should have been pulling away, a sequence of missed freebees seemed to take the wind out of our sails. When you work that hard and still don’t get anywhere, it’s bound to wear you out. In the 4th, when we stopped boxing out and Humphries started getting layups, I couldn’t help thinking of our 3rd quarter clankers. If I were an opposing coach, I’d do a Hack-a-Big as well.
*Where’s that time out, Vinnie?- You all know what I’m talking about. I didn’t notice anything terrible about his rotations, but when the team needs a breather, that’s when to give them a breather.
*Do not EVER use a floor angle camera in the middle of a developing half court set. Good grief.
*New Jersey might have won this game, had they just… - Made a few free throws themselves (65%). In particular, I could hardly believe that DWill was missing so badly. What’s up with him? They might have won, of course, had he had a much better game. The Nets also went cold behind the arc at the end, finishing 8-24 after a 6-13 start. I was holding my breath on a few of those.
Again, it was good to see us keep our composure in the final few minutes. This ugly win may pay a few dividends down the road. Next time the chips are down, we can certainly say that we’ve been there before. I’d also love for this to inspire some extra free throw practice.