Apr 22, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots over Atlanta Hawks forward Ivan Johnson (44) during the first half at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 109-102. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
Yecch... I took detailed notes tonight. I was fully prepared to deliver a thorough recap... it was gonna be my masterpiece... at least the best of the year. Then I watched the game... and I completely lost interest. (I wrote a kick-ass recap of the first half, really. If you're interested, let me know and I'll send it to you, because I'll be damned if I'm gonna bother with it here.) Of course this wasn't just another game, in the process of losing, of course, the Clippers weakened both their shot at first-round home-court advantage and handed the LA Lakers the Pacific Division title.
Here's my truncated recap: Clips came out flat. Clips coach Vinny Del Negro called an early timeout and the Clips played better. Actually only Blake Griffin played better. He wound up with 23 first half points... ten of those points came on jumpers. Chris Paul played pretty well too. Nobody else showed up but Clips were down by two at the half. Not bad, because the Clippers second unit was terrible, not only did they match the first unit's minimal effort on defense, they couldn't score at all. They stunk.
Fortunately for the Clippers, they employ Chris Paul (at least for now), who, even after the Hawks went up by thirteen in the third quarter, managed to make a game of it, whittling the lead down to six with just two and a half minutes left in the fourth. But, after a Griffin turnover, and a couple of missed opportunities by the Clips,
Tracy McGrady Joe Johnson hits a three ball, and the game was over.
So, the Clips don't nab the all-important homecourt advantage against the Memphis Grizzlies (though they have another chance tomorrow against the revitalized New York Knicks) and they don't tie up the LA Lakers either. In fairness, I suppose it's a tough road loss to a team that's probably better and deeper than most of us thought. But... I could almost taste that three seed. Here's a few more observations:
- The Clippers defense: Awful. Unimaginably awful. Every time it seemed like they were about to get off on an offensive run, the Hawks would waltz through the paint at the other end. Kenyon Martin, the Clips interior defensive stalwart didn't show up. DeAndre Jordan seems to completely have forgotten the things he learned earlier this season. He was a woeful -13 at the half... and finished -17. He looks terrible.
- Clips lost the rebound battle 42-35. Worse, the Hawks grabbed 14 offensive boards. I don't know how many second chance points they had. A lot.
- Randy Foye had zero points in twenty minutes. Caron Butler had a couple of threes, 9 points, but looked tired and old.
- The bench? Let's not talk about the bench. Okay, let's talk about the bench. Nick Young likes to shoot threes with guys on him. He'd be effective if he played within the offense. Mo Williams was the hot hand with 8 points over thirty minutes. Wha? Kenyon Martin had no points and was -11 in 25 minutes. Eric Bledsoe was 1 for 3 in ten minutes. Yikes. I don't want to mince words: They stunk.
- The Wake Forest matchup at point guard: Chris Paul went 34 and 8 which bested Jeff Teague's 21 and 2 but Teague was seriously good. He definitely frustrated Paul and made a hash of Bledsoe.
- The Hawks bench was plus 27 for the evening. They smoked the Clips bench.
- The Hawks have a guy named Ivan Johnson. I have no idea who he is, but his name is Ivan and he played good defense, grabbed 7 boards, and scored six points.
- Chris Paul seemed to tweak his "quad" or his "groin". This is terrible news. If I'm VDN, I seriously consider sending Paul home to get ready for the playoffs... and I take my chances against Memphis without homecourt.
Here's the good news, we do it all over again tomorrow afternoon in Madison Square Garden.