The Clippers should know by now that a win on paper is not a win at all. A woefully bad New Jersey Nets team, with only 3 home wins this season, took the Clippers down tonight in dramatic fashion,breaking the law for a 101-100 victory. Box score is here. More after the jump.
The Clippers have been an underwhelming team of late, never quite playing with the energy or determination that was present at the beginning of the year. Despite a big effort from Blake Griffin in the first half (15 pts on 6/10 shooting), the Clippers found themselves down by 12 heading into the break, thanks largely to the play of the New Jersey guards. Rookie Marshon Brooks put up up 14 points,and Anthony Morrow knocked in 5/6 for 12 points. Derron Williams threw in another 10 for the Nets. The success of the guards was largely the result of poor defensive effort by the Clippers, who were frequently very late closing out on shooters. Avery Johnson followed a familiar game plan, attempting to harass Chris Pal with physical play and double teams as soon as he crossed half court, and did so with some success in the first half. I was confident that after a halftime beer run, the Clippers would bounce back in the third quarter, stepping up the defensive intensity and knocking down some jumpers.
Instead, DWill would score the first 11 of the quarter for New Jersey, and New Jersey pushed the lead as high as 18. But the Clippers would ultimately show some real signs of life in the third quarter, thanks
largely to the higlight-reel caliber plays of Blake Griffin, and some great play by Eric Bledsoe on both ends of the floor. After picking up 2 quick fouls, Bledsoe began to pick up Derron WIlliams at half court and visibly bothered him with his strength and quickness. He had a key block on Johan Petro, knocked down a three, and made some nifty
passes in the lane that led to free throws for the Clippers. He closed out the quarter with an offensive rebound and put-back to cut the New Jersey lead to 7. Unfortunately, the Clips weren't able to prevent Farmar from going coast to coast to end the quarter, pushing the lead back to 9. It was a big play by Taft High School/UCLA product, and he was far from done.
The 4th quarter of this one was nothing if not entertaining. There were big plays on both sides, with big threes by Chris Paul, Mo Wiliams and Randy Foye at various points. There was a scary moment where Kris Humphries dove for a loose ball in dangerous fashion, cutting the legs of Blake Griffin from behind. Blake Griffin finished the game, but Blake was visibly hobbled after the play (my own opinion, that ankle is sprained, and I wouldn't be surprised if Blake sits the next one out). The second biggest series of the game happened with the Clippers down
98-96. After a Mo Williams missed three, Blake Griffin had a huge offensive rebound, which he kicked back out to Mo for a second attempt at the 3. Mo missed the second attempt, but Blake would tie up Sheldon Williams for a jump ball. Blake then controlled the tip, and the play resulted in Randy Foye knocking down a 23,8" two pointer away and getting fouled. He would knock down the free throw to tie the game.
38 seconds left, game tied at 98, New Jersey ball out of a timeout. Derron WIlliams penetrated and kicked to Morrow, who was short on the corner 3, which Foye rebounded. After a Clippers time out, Chris Paul was fouled coming off a pick with 8.9 seconds left. He Very calmly knocked down both, putting the Clips up 100-98. The Clippers then blew the game as only they know how. After WIlliams dribbled the ball off the leg of Chris Paul and out of bounds, taking the clock down to 5 seconds, the Nets inbounded to WIlliams again at half court. I just finished saying to my brother, just don't let them shoot the three. You are the better team, you have all the momentum. Stay home on every screen and don't foul anybody. Pretty simple. Then The Clippers decided to 1-1/2 team Derron WIlliams from 30 feet, who calmly found a wide open Jordan Farmer, who knocked down a three for the win. Not sure what a 1-1/2 team is? Me neither. Probably because it should never happen. Randy Foye made his way to Derron WIlliams and Chris Paul came over halfway. Williams drove toward the 1/2 defender, and threw a bounce pass to Farmar. Paul stumbled, but he was out of position anyway. Terrible final stand. Did I mention that Derron WIlliams was 7-17 tonight? I know hes a superstar, but I will gladly take a 6-3 superstar trying to pull up for the tie then give any NBA guard an open look at a 3 for the win. Terrible loss for the Clippers, and a real kick to the collective groin of club optomism. As close as the west is from 1-9, these are games the Clippers really need to win. On a night when the Lakers blew a big lead agianst Washington, and heading into a road game against the
Spurs, Del Negro and the Clippers will definitely regret dropping this game. Golden State, Boston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Indiana. There are no gimmes in the 6 games after San Antonio, but the Clippers are at home and very capable of going on a run, and they need to.
After starting 3/8, Randy finished 8/18 and knocked dwon 5/10 from downtown. He also did a decent job in spurts against Derron Williams. His production tonight makes this loss even more frustrating, but I can't say that I love that he took the most shots of any Clipper tonight. Foye's high number of shots is essentially the game plan of
the opposing defense of late. With Butler not producing, You take the ball out of Griffin and Pauls hands and make soeone else shoot. Those shots are going to Foye and Mo. Of late, Mo was connecting and Foye was not, tonight, Foye wa connecting while Mo was only 4/12 (and 1/5 from three).
Small FOrwards: Caron Butler was 1/6 tonight and still looks to me like a player who is unhealthy. If he is hurt (whether it's his knees or his back) he needs to sit and get right. Not only is he hurting the Clippers now, hes hurting them long term if hes never able to get back on track. Just 1/2 for Bobby Simmons tonight in a mere 7 minutes, as Del Negro opted to go with a 3 guard lineup for most of the second half. Clippers really need to get production from the 2 and the three. Butler's lack of production is hurting the Clippers much more than the absence of Chauncey Billups right now. Simmons looks like a nice pickup for our bench. Keep an eye on him during his second 10 day contract.
Hes a little out of control, but I like his ability to stretch his defense and create some havoc. If he can do that without picking up too many silly fouls and remain efficient on the other end, he will earn some more PT, and possibly pump up his trade value. Either way, its good for the Clips.
Griffin was mostly spectacular tonight, scoring 28 points on 9/15 shooting with 17 boards and more highlights that most NBA power Forwards get in a season. But he was 10-17 from the free throw line tonight (his counterparts, Humphries and Sheldon WIlliams, were a combined 15-17). In addition to costing himself MVP votes, his lackluster FT shooting is having a real impact on the game. Avery Johson called for an intentional foul on Blake down the stretch to put him on the line, and made 1/2. The Clippers lost by 1. I am definitely not putting the Loss on Blake, but this can't keep happening. He is too talented to shoot this poorly. We all know the problem is the hitch in his mechanics, and he reverted back to it tonight. On top of that, the technical fouls need to stop. I know he takes a beating, but those t's can really impact a game as well. Against Minnesota, he turned a fast break into negative points, by missing a both free throws and getting a technical which Ridnour knocked down.
Speaking of technical fouls. I have found myself praising Kenyon Martin in recent recaps, and I will do some more tonight. KMARt is smart. He moves well without the ball, and hes a great defender. But he needs to keep the mouth locked up late in games as well. Also, what a drop off in minutes for Deandre Jordan since we picked up Martin. Only 18 minutes for DJ tonight and virtually no production. Doesn't it seem that he should be able to clean up when teams get aggressive on our guards and Blake Griffin? Exactly the opposite is happening. I would love to see DJ start to take a step back in the right direction, playing smart disciplined defense and cleaning up around the rim. Clippers will be a better squad if he is producing.
The pessimist in me wants the Clippers to make a move quick and shake things up. The optomist in me says they will be fine and this rough patch will be good for the in the long run if it gets them upping their defense the rest of the way. Maybe both of those things will be true.
Either way, something needs to change, and hopefully it happens soon.