I was at a family holiday party this evening and didn't get a chance to watch the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves until after the party and well after the game had ended. I received a text from Lucas Hann while I was at the party, which consisted of one word: "wow".
Now Lucas knows that I rarely watch the games in real time. I don't like commercials, I do like to make my own replays, re-watching interesting plays throughout the game, and the bottom line is that more often than not I am still watching the game on the DVR after it has gone final. Because Lucas knew that, he didn't say much in his text -- "wow" is obviously ambiguous. Wow good or wow bad? "Wow how did they win that" or "wow how did they lose that"? Or is it maybe just "Wow that was a hell of a dunk."
So when I went back to my brother's house to watch the game, he and I were on high alert for the "Wow" moment -- and there were plenty of candidates.
- Wow Matt Barnes stop committing obvious flagrant fouls and costing your team points in close games. Barnes' flagrant on Kevin Love late in the third quarter resulted in a five point Minnesota possession, turning a two point Clipper lead into a three point deficit, and putting the Wolves in the driver's seat for the final quarter.
- Wow Kevin Love is awfully darn good. Love finished with 45 points on 15-23 shooting and added 19 rebounds, and it wasn't as if the Clippers weren't working hard to defend him. He's just really, really good, making tough shots in a variety of manners and from a variety of locations.
- Wow the Timberwolves need someone to help Love and Nikola Pekovic. The Minny Bigs combined for 79 of the team's 116 points. You can basically break their offensive production into three pieces: Love 45, rest of team 37, Pekovic 34.
- Wow is Jamal Crawford good at really long jump shots. As the third quarter was ending, Crawford shot and made a 35 footer to cut the deficit to two points. It was the second time in three games that Crawford has made a 30 footer, and he also has a 60 footer this season. And you would think they were flukes, but the 30 footers at least are not -- the guy can just make shots.
- Wow the Clippers are gonna lose if they can't make a layup. After falling behind by seven points with six minutes remaining, Paul scored to cut the lead to five, and then the Clippers proceeded to miss nine of their next ten shots, including at least five layups. Basically, they got the shot they wanted on about eight straight possessions, but missed almost all of them.
Of course the real wow was when the Clippers stole the ball from Kevin Martin in the backcourt for the game tying dunk with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation. Or was it Jared Dudley's three pointer for the lead with 39 seconds left in the first overtime? Dudley had been 0-6 from deep at the time, so there were plenty of reasons to be wowed by that shot.
And of course there's "Wow, the Timberwolves are now 0-3 against the Clippers this year" -- they certainly should have won this one, and should have at least forced overtime in the first one, and they outplayed L.A. for the lion's share of the other one. If Minnesota wins just one of those games, they're at .500. If they win a couple of them, they're 15-13 and tied with Denver and Golden State for the eighth best record in the West instead of 13-15 and sitting in 11th. The Timberwolves are now 0-7 in close games this season. Wow.
I really can't say enough about how good Rivers' playing calling is after time outs (ATOs). The Dudley three pointer didn't seem like much -- but Rivers somehow sensed that it would be open, that they could catch the Wolves moving one way and get a wide open look by going back against the grain. You're tempted to say it wasn't even an ATO -- that it was just CP3 creating. But if you watch it again, notice how Paul never even looked at Dudley -- he just knew he would be there, and was planning to throw that pass from the moment he started his move to the basket. A great ATO call, and props to Dudley for knocking it down after missing his first six three pointers on a night when he didn't have the long ball going.
It's hard to say whether the Clippers 'deserved' this win or not. In the end, it was very unlikely. At the same time, Griffin was terrific, and while the Clippers couldn't stop Love or Pekovic, they did shut down everyone else. If Paul has even a mediocre shooting night (he was 6-19 and finished with 19 points, with a lot of those coming on free throws at the end) this game is a relatively easy Clippers win. Or if they make better than 7-29 from deep. So I don't really feel like the Clippers 'stole' -- had they lost, it would have felt very much like they had given it away. Still, it's not often you get a steal in the final seconds down two to tie the game. And we all know it's not often that Lawler's Law is broken -- the Wolves were the first to 100, but the Clippers pulled out the win.
The win gives the Clippers a five game winning streak, the longest of the Doc era and in fact the longest active winning streak in the NBA. The Clippers now have a couple of days off before a big game in Oakland on Christmas night against the Warriors when they will attempt to make it six in a row.