After a massive meltdown against the sub .500 Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, the Los Angeles Clippers were careful to avoid making the same mistake against the visiting Toronto Raptors. With the front court leading the charge, the team came out of the gate running and never let up on the gas. It's good to see that this team is learning and growing after every game, but going forward, the Clippers need to take care of business and do what they are supposed to do; defeat an inferior opponent (especially one that is missing their star player). (box score)
From the get-go the energy level and intensity was established. For a team looking to shed the "Lob City" moniker, they sure aren't helping themselves by starting off the opening possession with a Foye to Blake backdoor lob. DeAndre took the reigns and followed up with a thunderous one handed alley-oop dunk later in the quarter (and another mid court lob with reverse dunk finish by DJ, which will surely be a top 10 ESPN highlight).
Speaking of DeAndre, he was a monster in this game, scoring 16 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and 2 blocks (altering many more). Without Andrea Bargnani, Toronto had no answer for his size, length, athleticism and tenacity. I'm not even convinced the Raptors could have stopped him even with Bargnani. Bargnani would likely be considered the counter to DJ, his ability to step out and spread the floor with a strong jumper would have forced DJ to come out of the key and make it difficult for him to protect the paint and grab rebounds. It doesn't really matter at this point to judge what could have been, the fact is DJ's production in the first quarter alone nearly matched that of the entire opposing team, 10 points and 9 rebounds versus 11 points and 13 rebounds, respectively.
It was good to see the Clippers hustling and keep up their energy on both ends of the court. Their defense looked sharp as they held the Raptors to 36% shooting and forced 18 turnovers. All the credit can't be given to the Clippers, the Raptors are known to be an offensively challenged team and were missing their best scorer. On offense, the Clippers played unselfishly, seemed to move the ball wall and made 49% of their shot attempts against the second highest rated defense in the league. Even better, this is all without Chris Paul (who thankfully should be back in the lineup against the Lakers on Wednesday).
Individual observations and notes:
Blake Griffin - Despite not having his normal productivity reflected in the box score, it was good to see him continuing to hustle regardless of how many touches he got. One of my favorite plays of the night wasn't a lob or dunk, it was when Blake poked the ball away, chased it down and dove ahead of the Raptors player to grab it. When one of your best players is hustling like that, the rest of the team has no excuse to let up.
Mo Williams - I have to think that if Mo hadn't been ejected from the Minnesota game, the Clippers would have won. He was brilliant against the Raptors. Where Jordan dominated the first quarter, Mo dominated the end of the third and entire fourth. Nearly all of the Clippers points came from Mo in the fourth quarter. Mo is scoring a point per minute since his return to the lineup. Hopefully he will continue to embrace being the instant offense, sixth man.
Chauncey Billups - He didn't shoot well, but found other ways to contribute. He had a season high 14 assists, highlighted with a sweet over the head no look pass to a cutting Foye. I like Chauncey the facilitator.
Caron Butler - Another steady night from Caron. The Clippers clearly need him as a steadying, consistent contributor on the floor.
Get the opponents take at Raptors HQ