It's been a while since I've watched a Clipper game live, and I was excited coming into this game. The possibility of seeing Chris Paul return with a healthy team and a new and improved Blake Griffin was fairly tantalizing. Unfortunately, not only did Paul end up missing the game, but J.J. Redick was also a scratch too. Against a solid Raptor team, I was pretty apprehensive about what the team could do.
The team quickly put that to rest in a great first half. Despite mediocre defense that allowed the Raps 51 points and tons of easy hoops inside, the Clips were rolling on offense, a theme since Paul has been hurt. Griffin scored 19 first quarter points and was so active in the first that I was wondering how he'd even have the energy to finish the game. The Raptors, once again, had no one to guard Blake, but similarly DeMar DeRozan was scoring at will on the other end. Griffin picked up his 2nd foul on a very debatable block/charge, and the Clippers offense became very stagnant. Luckily the Raps couldn't cut into the lead thanks to some timely buckets from Jamal Crawford and even Jared Dudley. A surge near the end of the half put the Clips up comfortably. Griffin had a beautiful fake-out dunk, DJ had a block that lead to a fast break Matt Barnes three. All was fine and dandy.
Those good feelings continued through a chunk of the third.. Then Griffin got a ticky tack foul on DeRozan for his fourth, and one more for his fifth soon after. And Hack-a-DJ began. And kept going, and going, and going. And worked, actually. DJ ended up shooting 22 free throws (!) for the night. A rout that was well over 20 was soon cut to single digits, and continued offense from DDR as well as scrappy play from a hustling Kyle Lowry made the game feel like there was still plenty to be done. All that, and the Clippers offense, when it was finally being allowed to occur outside of DJ free throws, looked completely shot. The most entertaining part of those last 7 or so minutes of the third quarter was Blake Griffin singing along to "California Love" while shackled on the bench with foul problems.
All the high-flying of the first 30 minutes diluted into a slugfest in the 4th quarter. Neither team was really in an offensive groove, but the Clips hit some big shots, highlighted by 10 very timely Willie Green points. Some stops and some threes finally gave the Clips comfortable distance, along with a couple of makes from Griffin when he returned to the game. A game that started like poetry on offense ended up being exhausting even to watch, but a win is a win and the Raptors remain a good team to get that win against. And this was made all the more impressive without that backcourt. Hopefully we won't have to worry about those two missing games together for the rest of the season.
Blake became the first player in franchise history to score 35+ points in three consecutive games, quite a feat. All those free throws (94 in total attempted by both teams!) made the point/FGA ratio pretty neat, though Crawford and DeRozan tarnished their ratios with some missed shots near the end of the game. Griffin had 36 points on 13-18 from the field, 8 boards, 2 steals, a block, and 10-13 FTs. DJ's rebounding streak continued and Crawford again scored over 20. Terrence Ross, the guy who had 51 last time these two teams met, had 9 points tonight on 3-10 shooting. The game ended with him airballing a 35 footer at the buzzer. Ralph Lawler compared his scoring outburst to a nerd in high school going to prom with the prettiest girl in school, I believe. Good times.
Up next? The Philly 76ers, with a couple pieces Clipper fans might be eyeing on their team, and a couple of important current Clipper pieces hopefully returning to the lineup.
Get the Raptor perspective at Raptors HQ.