The Los Angeles Clippers were coming off their worst game of the season, a home loss to the Phoenix Suns in which they trailed by double digits the entire second half and were never in the game. Before that they played a lackluster home affair against the Utah Jazz, the worst team in the Western Conference, and had to ride a monster game from Blake Griffin to come away with a win.
Playing an injured Charlotte Bobcats team, the Clippers went to the halftime intermission tied at 56. The Bobcats are one of the worst scoring and shooting teams in the NBA, yet the Clippers allowed them to score 56 points and shoot 51% from the field.
All told, that made about five straight halves at home where the Clippers had played somewhere in the range of poor to abysmal.
That changed in the second half. They scored the first seven points of the third quarter, and never looked back. The defense was particularly good, holding the Bobcats to 13 points in the third quarter and 29 points in the second half -- a stark contrast to the 56 they gave up in the first half.
The Clippers have been struggling to make three pointers lately, and that trend continued tonight with one exception -- Jared Dudley was 6-9 from deep. Dudley has seemed to either be great or invisible in his Clippers career so far, with far more of the latter, but tonight he was the former. The third quarter run that opened up the game featured three Dudley threes, but he was also making plays. I've been critical of Dudley's inability to make plays off the bounce this season, but tonight he had everything going. Once the Bobcats realized they had to run him off the three point line, he started using the 'show-and-go' to get into the lane, and twice he found a big after forcing the defense to react. His dish to DeAndre Jordan for the huge dunk was the exclamation point that said "yeah, this one's over." Dudley finished the game with 20 points and five assists. It was his third 20-plus game as a Clipper, one off his Clipper high, and it was easily his Clipper high in assists.
The fourth quarter was the Blake Griffin jump shot show. Blake's fourth quarter shot chart looks more like it would belong to Dirk Nowitzki. He was 6-8 in the quarter, with just one basket coming in the paint. At one point he hit four straight jumpers, and then he capped off the night with a three pointer. I have him at 8-12 on jumpers for the game, which has to be one of the best perimeter shooting games of his career. As we've said all along, when Griffin shoots the ball with confidence, he hits a better percentage -- and he's never shot it with more confidence than he is showing right now.
After their terrible performance against Phoenix, the Clippers were clearly very focused on ball movement, which was a recurring theme in post game comments. According to Dudley, when they broke down the Suns video, it showed that they were 20-59 when the ball stayed on one side of the floor -- 8-11 when it moved from side to side: conclusion, move the ball from side-to-side guys.
For his part, Doc Rivers was pleased with the results. "You could see that what we worked on yesterday was ball movement -- the ball was flying around the floor."
The Clippers played the second half like a team that wanted to put a bad performance behind them. Hopefully they've done just that, but winning in Dallas and San Antonio this weekend will be much tougher than beating the Bobcats. Hopefully they'll remember some of what they learned about ball movement.