The Clipper Weekly Review!
It's that time again... actually it's the fourth week, of recaps and analysis for the week that was, in the world of the Los Angeles Clippers. Each week there will be synopsis of each game, along with a close scrutiny of the Clippers combined with other notable moments in the NBA, which affect the Clips.
Did the Clippership Sink or Sail? It's time to find out.
Heading into the week, the Clippers were 49-21; 1st in the Pacific Division, and 4th in the Western Conference. They were 1-1 in the previous week.
Last week's Matchups were: Monday VS. Milwaukee, Wednesday at New Orleans, Thursday at Dallas, Saturday at Houston
Monday: VS. Milwaukee Bucks
On the verge of winning 50 games in two consecutive seasons, the Clips hosted the Bucks who are one of the league's worst teams. This was a big game for the Clips to win with a rigorous five game road trip looming.
The Clippers quickly jumped on the Bucks, and the expected laugher seemed to be underway. Blake Griffin was a man possessed in the first quarter as he staked his claim and the Clips had the upper hand in the game. The Clips had a 10 point advantage after one period, and a blowout appeared imminent.
Wait a minute -- didn't the Bucks receive the memo that they were supposed to lie down and die?? They hit the offensive boards hard, and were killing the Clips on second chance points. Second chance points has been an Achilles heel for the Clips for a good part of the season, and it was the reason the Bucks found themselves down only five points as they headed into the half.
With so many moving parts in the second unit for the Clippers, teams like the Bucks have been able to make runs. Danny Granger grabbed a quick seven points off the bench for the Clips, but was sidetracked with foul trouble. Early on in the third quarter, the Bucks drew within two points, when "Big Baby" Davis was good for four points, to give the team a six point cushion.
Chris Paul hustled his way into 14 points and seven assists. It was Paul's opposition, Ramon Sessions who kept the Bucks in the game, as he drove through the lane on many occasions, and ended up with a game high 28 points.
In the fourth quarter, Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford hit some clutch three pointers to keep the Bucks at bay. It was also Crawford's first double digit game (13 points) since returning to the lineup. Blake was Blake down the stretch, hitting another one of his patented jumpers to help the Clips fend off the Bucks 106-98.
It wasn't pretty, actually it was a lethargic performance, but it was a win. The Clippers notched their second consecutive 50 season; the first time in franchise history, and were able to get a much needed win before they hit the road and face an exhausting schedule.
Clipper of the Game: Blake Griffin defined himself as an MVP candidate with his impressive numbers; 27 points, 14 boards, and 5 assists. There was a juncture in the game where it seemed like Griffin might have a had a shot at a triple double, but it didn't come to fruition. Whether it was his jumper, back to the basket, or jamming in transition, Griffin displayed it all!
Runner Up: Chris Paul and possibly Jamal Crawford, could have been second behind Griffin, but it is Darren Collison. Words can't describe how important Collison has been to the Clippers as injuries have kept Redick and Crawford out of the lineup. He and Paul have been a two headed point guard monster, while Collison chipped in the 14 points-including 3-4 from ‘three point land.'
With a look at the standings for the night; the Clips had no help! The Rockets stayed a game and half behind the Clips, with a win over the Bobcats, as the Spurs' wins continued, they blitzed the Sixers at home.
Tuesday: It is a travel day for Clippers before they play in New Orleans on Wednesday, and begin their last long road trip of the season. This will be the first game of a back to back against one of the league's scrappiest and hottest teams. New Orleans has defeated both Miami and Brooklyn in the past week, as they were led by young superstar, Anthony Davis and the red hot Tyreke Evans.
All eyes will be on the Blake Griffin/Anthony Davis All-Star matchup. Obvious to all, Griffin's forte has been buffed and glossed and he now shines like a brilliant star! Davis in his second season, isn't too far behind, and many believe he could be the next big thing. Ironically, it was Davis that took Griffin's slot on the Team USA Olympic team when Blake went down to a torn meniscus. Davis and Griffin will be a focus of our attention in the future as they bedazzle the courts!
The road has not been extremely smooth for the Clips, as they hover over .500. It is vital that the Clippers avoid preoccupation with the Mavs on Thursday and concentrate on the Pelicans. If the Clippers can prevail over the Pelicans, they would sweep the season series, and most importantly hit the highway in the fast lane to victories!
One final note is that J.J. Redick did travel with the team on the current road trip. Despite the fact that there is no timetable available regarding his return to action, this might be a good sign that his return is impending. Of course Clipper fans hope that Redick will return to action while the team is on the road; time will tell.
Wednesday: @New Orleans
To quote The Big Lebowski: "Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you." That best describes the Clippers performance against the Pelicans on Wednesday night. After beating two inconsequential teams; the Bucks and Pistons, the Clips may have won the battles, yet descended to their competition in those matchups.
So most people would assume that the Clippers, winners of 13 of the past 14 games, would sweep the floor with the Pelicans; after all, the Clips faced a skimpy team with a backcourt that was almost non-existent. The Clips had toyed with both Detroit and Milwaukee, and allowed two inferior teams to hang around. Bad news! The Clips failed to learn from their previous experiences.
Early, Anthony Morrow, a bench player on the Pelicans was able to get going, and ended up with a game high 27 points! How did the Clips allow that? Both Marrow and Tyreke Evans did a good job bottling up the Clips' smaller backcourt of Paul and Collison. Matt Barnes helped early for the Clips with eight points, yet the Clips were down a deuce at the end of the first period.
Going into the game, the Clippers had been undefeated in games in which they made more than nine three-pointers. Jamal Crawford single handedly kept the Clips in the game by hitting seven three-pointers. This was the best game that Jamal had played since his return after time off for an injury. Clearly, his play reflected his talents that we had seen prior to the injury; he scored 31 points in the game.
Before the end of the half, the Clips were down by seven, and Blake Griffin chipped in to help cut the lead to three as they headed into the half. Griffin found himself battling All-Star Anthony Davis, who had made 16 points and 13 boards in the game. This would be a battle that would last all night, but it would be the other Pelicans, along with Crawford from the Clips that would put the stamp on the game.
Returning to New Orleans, Chris Paul left his game in Los Angeles. Neither Paul nor Griffin, for the most part managed to make their presence known in the contest. Other than Crawford off the bench, no one contributed a lick to make a difference. On the other hand the Pelicans' Alexis Alunica, contributed when he dropped 14 points and swallowed up 11 boards.
Heading into the fourth and final frame, the Clips were down one point. Once again, allowing a less impressive team (though hot of late), to stick around. Rather than throw a knock-out punch to the Pelicans the Clips took body shots. Paul continued to misfire, he finished with only 2 points, and set a Clippers' franchise worst record for going 0-12 from the field. This was easily Paul's worst scoring performance as a Clipper, though he did dish out 12 dimes.
Down seven late in the game, the Clippers made a surge with a clutch three-pointer, by none other than, Crawford. The Clippers would then continue to trim the lead, but another random Pelican, Darius Miller, who had 16 points, answered the call with timely hoop to give the team more of a cushion.
With a lackluster performance from Paul and others, the Clippers were still only down three with under a minute left. Blake Griffin drove to the hoop grabbed a huge bucket plus the foul, as he finished with 21 points and eight boards With a chance to even the score at 97, Griffin missed his free throw attempt. Luckily, Anthony Davis missed one of his two attempts, as the Clippers were forced to foul-to get one more shot to tie or win the game in regulation.
Things were set up; Paul was scoreless, and he had the ball in his hands at the final second. All the Clippers needed was a hoop to force overtime. CP faked a pass to wide- open Crawford for a three, and then ran into traffic! Rather then force a shot, he kicked it out to Crawford who was guarded. The shot fell short, as did the Clippers effort; they had been eaten by the "bar" or in this case the Pelicans 98-96.
For the Clippers, they simply underestimated a team that was undermanned. Rather than impose their will, they sunk to the level of the competition, and this time it caught them. There will be no time for a pity party, the Clips now must travel to Dallas to battle the Mavs, a team fighting for their ‘playoff lives'.
Clipper of the Game: Jamal Crawford proved why he is the Sixth Man of the Year. Not only did he throw in 31 points with timely three pointers, he surpassed Steve Nash to move up to number 11 as the all time NBA three pointers list. The Clippers' franchise record for three pointers was also broken by Crawford in the fourth quarter; a record, which he originally set last season. In addition to the loss of the final shot final, "Picasso" painted a heck of a picture!
Runner Up: None. Matt Barnes and Blake Griffin had their moments, yet no one besides Crawford put their mark on the game.
Coming off a very stale performance in the loss to the Pelicans, the Clippers went to Dallas to take on the Mavs. Each game for the Mavs has been a must win, as they are on the cusp of the playoff picture with no room for error. While the Clips needed to bounce back after they allowed a lowly team to catch them with their guard down. It was a big statement game for the Clips, since they were 2-2 in their last four games.
This game had all the feel of a playoff game from the tip with Mavs, as it should, since the two previous contests between the two teams have been nail-biters. Chris Paul was also out to avenge his woeful performance of 0-12 shooting from the previous night. Early on, Blake Griffin was in foul trouble, after the Clips had forged ahead to gain a 16-11 advantage. That would change in a hurry, as the Mavs started to take control of the game.
Vince Carter led the barrage for the Mavs; he was hot from the outside, going 4-5 from a long distance and tossed in 23 points. A big discrepancy in the game was on the bench, where again, the Clips struggled to get on track and were outscored 51-21. Both Danny Granger and Glenn "Big Baby" did little, and Granger left the game with a hamstring injury. Things seemed to be going well for the Mavs, as they led by two at the end of two after a Clippers' run trimmed the lead.
Things became testy in the third, as Matt Barnes and the Mavs' Shawn Marion clashed. Each player was hit with a technical, and both were offset. Chris Paul also picked up a technical too and it awakened a sleeping giant from the night before. Paul had been a man on a mission all night, and was not going to let the Clips go without a fight. But, the Mavs seemed to have a pedal on the gas and the Clips needed to accelerate!
Heading into the fourth quarter the game was tied at 81-81, but the Mavs jumped on the Clippers right away, and fans were probably thinking that the game was going to get away. The lead continued to bump up to 10 points and finally Paul and the rest of the Clippers decided to clamp down. Paul kept his game face on, while his game soared to another level with a game high 31 points.
For the first time in 30 games, Blake Griffin failed to reach 20 points, yet he was able to hold Dirk to only two points in the fourth quarter. DeAndre Jordan had a great game with 16 points and 13 boards and he continued to play all the vital minutes in the fourth quarter too; something Vinny Del Negro never gave him a chance to do. The Clippers also heated up beyond the arch, as they hit eleven three-pointers; Jamal Crawford led the surge with one,
Throughout the season, the Mavs have been notorious for blowing leads late; one of the most serious miscues was against the Clips when they blew a 17-point lead. Déjà vu? Well, the Clips refused to terminate the battle, and following a Clipper layup, they were able to tie the game at 101-101. Whew!
After the Mavs turned the ball over, the Clips had a chance to take the lead with- over 30 seconds to play. Despite the fact that he was on the verge of his 20-points, Griffin took a monumental step in the right direction with a clutch shot late in the game. He hit a beautiful spinning runner that gave the Clips the lead and the win- at 103-101.
When it was all said and done, the Clippers heisted a game in Dallas 109-103. It could have easily been a game where the Clippership sank; instead it docked with a bang. Next - for the Clippers is a GIGANTIC matchup on Saturday in Houston against the Rockets. There is only one game that separates the two teams for the number three seed in the West, though the Clips have the tiebreaker. A Clipper win could possibly put the team in the driver's seat for the number three seed in the playoffs.
Clipper of the Game: Talk about to responding to a dreadful effort in New Orleans; Chris Paul did that and more. Resilience was the key for Paul, as he helped push the team too a much needed victory against a possible playoff opponent. He finished with 31 points and nine assists, but didn't take the final shot; Griffin did! A few months ago, it would have been CP taking the shot, and now he knows he has a true wingman in Griffin.
Runner Up: All good things must come to an end-even Blake Griffin's 30 straight games of 20 points or more. Yet, this might have been one of his best all around games of the season as he defended Nowitzki flawlessly down the stretch, and took 18 points and 13 boards. Nothing could be larger then how clutch Griffin was in crunch time; he hit two huge shots, which means a lot as the Clips head into the playoff mode. In the past, it was Paul taking the final shot, and now Griffin has proved again that he is capable of doing the same.
So the Clips left Dallas with a nice comeback win, but they did sustain another injury. Danny Granger left the game against Dallas with a strained hamstring. This is something to keep an eye on; is this merely a strain or something more? Already Granger has provided glimpses of how he is able to contribute to the Clipper team and if he is out for a long time it could hurt the team. Still, it seems that the team knows Granger's role so if he misses some time it should not be a huge issue.
On Saturday night, the Clips play one of the West's best teams-the Houston Rockets in game three of the five game road trip. Well. The Rockets will be without their defensive stopper, point guard Patrick Beverly, who tore his meniscus on Wednesday night against the 76ers. This is a nasty blow for the Rockets and against the Clippers, as Beverly was going to draw the assignment on Chris Paul. Beverly will most likely miss the rest of the regular season, and possibly the playoffs. Ironically, Beverly now deals with the same injury that he inflicted upon Russell Westbrook in the playoffs last season.
Looking at the standings, the logjam between the 6-9 seeds in the West continued. Golden State was able to survive a seven-point deficit with a little over three minutes left to take down the Grizzlies at home. A Grizzlies win would have moved them tied with Golden State for the six seed.
The Thunder also took down the Kings, keeping their grasp on the number two seed in the West. This makes the Clips/Rockets matchup that much more important as these two teams battle for the three seed. A win by the Clips gives them a two game lead, which in reality with the tiebreaker would make it three games on the Rockets.
Saturday: @ Houston Rockets
Houston, we have a matchup! With the number three seed in the West hanging with the matchup between the Clippers at the Rockets. The Rockets also had problems of their own coming into the game, Patrick Beverly was out with a meniscus tear, an Dwight Howard was ruled out prior to the contest with an ankle injury that could sideline him for ten days. This was a game for the Clips taking, along with a shot to knot their third consecutive playoff birth with a victory.
Early on the Clippers attacked the Rockets, Blake Griffin had a quick seven points imposing his will on them. It was just past midway in the first quarter when the Rockets' big man Darius Mantiejuans clubbed Griffin in the back causing him to go down in pain. Griffin would not return after suffering back spasms. Now, who would step up for the Clippers?
First off the bench for Clips was Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who since being picked up off waivers has been the first big off the bench. Well, the Rockets went on a huge run of their own led by James Harden, who had a game high 32 points, next thing the Clippers knew is that they were down by 15 points. Davis had a temper tantrum of emotions during the midst of the Rockets, which Clippers head coach wouldn't take. Rivers told "Big Baby" to go to the locker room to cool down for the rest of the game.
The Clippers responded with their general Chris Paul at the helm. Paul put on the gas; he also got DeAndre Jordan involved to help the Clips get back into the game. After "Big Baby" had left the game, the Clips went on 34-18 run to take a 61-58 lead heading into the second half.
In the third quarter, the Rockets responded taking the league. It was the Clips, this time with a jolt from Jamal Crawford, who had 22 points, helped the Clips regain the lead again. Paul was phenomenal with 30 points and 12 assists, but he was able to find Jordan on multiple occasions, as he had 20 points and 12 rebounds.
As for the fourth quarter, the Rockets stayed on the Clips heels for a bit. Yet, Paul kept leading the shorthanded Clips, as they answered the call each time. It was with a little over two minutes left, Matt Barnes and Darren Collison hit back to back three pointers to give the Clips an eleven point lead.
Despite losing their most dynamic player in Griffin, Paul, Jordan, Crawford helped defeat the Rockets 118-107 with some timely shooting. Again, the Clips three point shooting proved predictive as they went 12-41 giving them an insane record of 30-1 when they make at least nine three pointers. Both teams were undermanned, but it was the Clips that responded through all the adversity to find a way to down the Rockets. Now the Clips have a two game lead on the Rockets for the three seed, but the lead is basically three with the tiebreaker. Houston, the Clips answered the call! They also clinched their third consecutive Playoff berth, making Clipper history in the process.
Clipper of the Game: With the Playoffs three weeks away, Paul is putting on his postseason cape. Griffin's injury could have sent this team into a down hill spiral, but it was Paul getting all the troops involved.
Runner Up: DeAndre Jordan did have 20 points and 12 boards, which was key in Dwight Howard's absence. On the defensive end, he continued to show how dominant he is, and his ability to change the game on that end.
Sunday: The Clippers have the day off before playing the Timber Wolves in Minnesota on Monday night. It will be interesting to see the status of Blake Griffin, who is day to day with the back spasms. With a bit of cushion for the three seed, Doc Rivers might opt to sit Griffin on Monday and maybe on Wednesday versus the Suns. There is no reason to force Griffin to go until he is 100 percent, it is not worth make this injury linger down the stretch.
Clipper of the week: CP3! Besides his awful shooting performance in New Orleans, Paul had the Clips answer every call. He was great against Dallas, leading the Clips to a comeback win, and then again on Saturday when Griffin went down. CP3 continues to show the NBA is he still the league's best point guard and one of the top players too.
Sink or Sail: Sail! Sure there was a point where the Clippers were 2-2 in their last four. The loss to the Pelicans was brutal, they screwed around with inferior teams, and it bit them in the butt. The response of Griffin and Paul was incredible, beating a team that needed the win. Against the Rockets with their "Sky Marshal" Griffin out, they found a way to get the win, gaining more of a cushion on the Rockets.
The rest of the schedule is not easy, so going 2-1 out of the gate on the five game road trip was very important. It is key for this team to work through all the injuries, and get themselves healthy to have all the weapons available heading into the Playoffs.