It’s too early to call this a pivotal point in a Clippers turnaround, but the Clippers handled business this afternoon against the Memphis Grizzlies. After a week of turmoil where the team lost three straight and rumors of Vinny Del Negro’s pending departure spreading throughout the Twitterverse, the team backed up their words and finally responded in a way fans have been waiting for.
In an "utmost important" game, the Clippers once again came out gunning, more importantly, their energy also transferred over to the defensive end. The Clippers have scored more than 30 points in the first quarter of their previous three losses; unfortunately teams have been able to neutralize it by matching the offensive output. Today, the team was active on the defensive end and limited Memphis to only 17 points. However, the most important factor (and most encouraging) in today’s victory was due to the team being able to sustain their effort and output for all four quarters. (Box Score)
I'm not sure if it was all the negative whispers and rumors being put around, or the mere embarrassment of falling well below expectations, but something finally changed today.
For one day, the Clippers returned to being the team that we remembered. A team full of energy and hustle that played solid basketball. It's been a trying last 20 games, as a fan I wasn't having fun watching this team. Something was off, it just didn't seem as though the players were enjoying themselves, making it hard for fans to enjoy watching.
It wasn't just energy, but it was energy directed at the right places. The team had been taking too many jump shots, but today they really looked to get to the rim aggressively. I particularly liked how Blake came out in attack mode. He was aggressive at going at the rim instead of merely floating at the top of the key and ultimately shooting jump shots. Even when he wasn't able to catch it with deep positioning, he utilized his speed to get to the rim for a finish. The results? 18 first quarter points in the paint.
I'm a firm believer in defense leads to offense and it is no coincidence that tonight was one of the best defensive efforts in recent memory. DeAndre and Blake were active on defense, constantly suffocating and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, holding the two to a combined 20 points. Although, to be fair, Randolph is just rounding back into game shape after missing 37 games to injury and something was off with Marc Gasol.
I talked about lack "chemistry" between Paul and Griffin in my last recap, but didn't see any of that today. The two were able to connect on some great cuts and even a backdoor lob that Paul has missed so often prior. It's only one game, but I think it coincides with Blake's return to being aggressive and I hope it continues for the rest of the season.
I've managed to talk about aggressiveness, but it would be a crime not to mention Caron. Many in Clipsnation feel that Caron's productivity is directly related to the team's performance. Today would make a good case towards this argument. He came out and got the team off to a good start by scoring a majority of the Clippers early points, was aggressive at the rim and played solid defense.
With regard to rotations, we didn't see much of Reggie and Kenyon on the floor together. I liked that.
Every win is important, but this one mattered a little more than others (hence "utmost important"). Today's win secured the tie breaker between the two teams, which may become important come the post season.