Weekly Clipper Review, March 31 through April 6

Mpu Dinani

The regular season is winding down, and Mike Jaglin is back with one of the last weekly reviews.

The Clipper Weekly Review!

It's that time again... actually it's the fifth 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 52-22; 1st in the Pacific Division, and 3rd in the Western Conference. They were 3-1 in the previous week.

Last week's Matchups were: Monday @ Minnesota, Wednesday at Phoenix, Thursday Vs. Dallas, Sunday Vs. LAL

Monday: @Minnesota

Due to the Blake Griffin's back spasms, the dream matchup of Griffin VS. Kevin Love had to be shelved. Griffin did not suit up for the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, nor did Jamal Crawford. Crawford sustained an Achilles injury; a setback stemming from the calf injury he managed to play through Saturday in Houston.  So the Clips entered their matchup without Griffin, Crawford, Redick, and Granger.

No problem!

Suiting up only 10 players, the Clips worked to hold their lead on the Rockets for the three seed in the West, while keeping the faith that they will catch the Thunder for the two seed. Luckily for the Clips, they were playing a team on a second night of a back- to- back, whose star player, Love, was battling an illness.

DeAndre Jordan made it evident that he is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. In the first quarter DJ had 12 rebounds and set the tone that the Clips would not lie down just because a number of their weapons were out of commission.

The Clips did an awesome job keeping Kevin Love at bay. The rest of the T-Wolves had a chance to stay in the game until the third quarter when the Clips outscored them 34-15. From that point on, the Clips never looked back as they were able to down the T-Wolves 114-104.

It was a total team effort led by Chris Paul, who continues his brilliance. Paul had 22 points and nine assists, but he was also able to help ALL five starters get into double figures. Darren Collison had a season high 28 points, along with seven assists, with 16 coming in the third quarter alone. Together he and Paul have been a very dynamic backcourt.

Kudos must be given to Jared Dudley too. He has fallen out of the rotation and found himself starting at power forward against one of the game's elite players - Love. Dudley finished with 16 points including a pair of threes as the Clippers improved their record to 31-1 when they hit more then 10 three pointers.

March was a wrap. The Clippers had their second best month in franchise history going 13-2, only second to the Spurs for the month. Most importantly, when one guy falls, another two or three step up to help the team. The term "Team Effort" is an understatement with this squad.  Will they rest Griffin and Crawford in Phoenix or continue to chip away at OKC's lead  -- the number two seed and by just two games??

Clipper of the Game: DJ's performance against the Wolves has given us another opportunity to witness his continuous maturation process this season.  He had 24 rebounds, 10 of which were offensive boards.  Without his sidekick Griffin, Jordan answered the call against a solid Minnesota frontcourt.

Runner Up: There has been no other unsung Clipper hero like Darren Collison.  He has come off the bench, started for CP, and at the two-guard slot.  Against Minnesota, he reached his season- high 28 points with seven assists in the absence of Jamal Crawford.

Tuesday: A travel day for the Clippers and they finish the road trip on Wednesday against the Suns.  Questions remain on the availability of both Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, as both attempt to recover from injuries.  Will they play? Hard to tell.  It seems logical with a cushion at the three seed, and two games behind the Thunder for the two seed, that they might sit them out so that they are primed to play at home against Dallas on Thursday night.

Phoenix is also a very desperate team, fighting for their playoffs lives. They are battling Dallas and Memphis for the final two playoff spots. After the loss to the Lakers on Sunday night, the Suns will attempt to bounce back against the Clips. As for the Clips, they have back-to-back games to win against Phoenix and Dallas to hold their spot in the playoff race.

Wednesday: @Phoenix

One win away from their second consecutive Pacific Division Championship, the Clippers played the pesky Phoenix Suns to wrap up a five game road trip. With the Suns' need for the win in order to to stay in the playoff pack, the Clippers were trying to take three of four for the season, and also stay on the heels of OKC for the two seed in the West.

As for injuries, Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger, and J.J. Redick were all out of lineup. But hang on! Blake Griffin would return from his one game absence  -- back spasms are a thing of the past! This was good news for Clippers, as the Suns are one of the most up-tempo teams in the league.

The Clips were able to get a lead after the first quarter, despite the fact that Griffin did not make a contribution in the bucket. The Suns responded with help from Morris twins, who provided a big spark by giving them the lead heading into the half.

The nasty predicament became ugly as the Clippers were down 17 points in the third quarter. Rather then stick with their big lineup, Doc Rivers opted to play small ball to match the Suns' athleticism. Darren Collison, who ended up with 23 points helped lead a unit and the lead was chiseled in chunks.

Willie Green hit a three to cut into the lead; Jared Dudley hit a big three to bring the Clips even closer. Before the Suns realized it, their lead had evaporated. Chris Paul beat the shot clock with a three pointer from the "Sun" near center court and gave the team a one-point advantage. Despite some tightness in his back, Blake Griffin had two of his 23 points with a clutch put back.

The comeback was sealed when Dudley hit two free throws and the clock wound down and ten seconds were left in the game. When the horn sounded, the Clips had been victorious 112-108, and had won four of five games on the road trip. Three out of the four games, the Clips battled from behind, climbed back up the hill and staked their claim as a resilient, winning team!

This marks the second consecutive season that Clips have won the Pacific Division. They are also on pace to eclipse their win total of 56 games, with five of their final six games at home. Dallas will cap off the second night of the back-to-back with the Mavs' playoffs hopes in the air, it will be no easy task to sweep the season series from them. Yet if there is a team capable of pulling the rug out from under the Mavs, it is the Clippers.  The tenacious, talented, team will trounce the Mavs and take the two seed in the West!!

Good news for Clippers is that J.J. Redick might make his debut on Thursday against the Mavericks.  Redick's movement on offence is advantageous to the Clippers and if his return is a success, the Clips will be a touch team to reckon with in the West!

Clipper of the Game: Clutch players make clutch shots, which is what Chris Paul did against the Suns. His shot put the Suns in an awkward position, and they were unable to straighten up.  Paul posted a solid line too with 20 points and nine assists, and despite his 6-17 shooting, CP3 answered the call.

Runner Up: Most people wondered if Blake Griffin should have even given it a go... He did, at times he looked as if he were in pain, yet he found ways to help the team prevail. With a two- point lead, Barnes missed a runner, and Blake was there for a put back. This was his second clutch bucket within a week in crunch time!!!

Thursday: VS. Dallas

After much speculation on the status of J.J. Redick, he was officially cleared to play Thursday night versus the Mavericks.  Redick is one of the true sharp shooters in the NBA, who gives opposing defenses problems with his movement without the ball. Sure, it's great to have Redick back in the game, but it didn't necessarily mean that the game against the Mavs would be a cakewalk.

The Clippers held a slim chance to leapfrog the Thunder in the standings if they continued their winning ways; if not the three seed seemed more realistic. As they have been known to fold against the Clippers and other teams this season, the Mavs came in with a need to win the game.

From the get-go, the Mavs played as if it were Game 7 of the Playoffs. Their dribble penetration was able to get both Vince Carter and Jose Calderon open three pointers. For the Clippers, J.J. Redick returned from his back injury and he saw 25 minutes of the action total in the game. It was apparent that Redick was rusty, but he still found a way to mount 12 points.

Blake Griffin posted a nice triple-double with 25 points, 10 boards, and 11 assists; doing it all.  Each time the Mavs would make a run, the Clips would answer. DeAndre Joradan also had his way inside, as he hit the glass, and scored inside. The unsung Clips' hero continues to be Darren Collison, who continued to start with Chris Paul, and the backcourt intent upon giving the Mavs conniption fits.

It was the second night of a back to back for the Clips they had played sixth games in eight days, the game was still theirs for the taking. With the game in the balance halfway through the fourth, Dirk Nowitzki hit two huge three pointers, and helped Dallas to a 10 point lead over the Clips.

Once again, the Mavs found themselves in a similar position as they had in the past three contests with Clips; with a substantial lead, late! Down 12 points with a little over 12 minutes left, the Clips would not die. Dallas began to play not to lose -rather than to win.

Did the Mavs travel back in time again, as they were ready to blow another game?  Suddenly the Clips were down two points with under a minute left, when Redick missed an open three in transition. When the Clips stopped the Mavs on their next possession, rather than call a time out, Collison put up a three that fell short. Therefore, the rally fell short, and gave the Mavs a big win 113-107.

When you play with fire too many times, you eventually get burned; and the Clippers learned that lesson when they played the Mavs.  Sure, it stinks to fall further behind the Thunder in the standings for the two seed, but the Clippers have two games off between games for the rest of the season; except the final back-to- back. This team needs to get healthy and on the same page in order to make a long run in the playoffs.  To have Jamal Crawford and Danny Granger healthy prior to the playoffs is a must, and the time off will help them. All in all, the team is playing well and the schedule should find them well balanced before the playoff games begin in a couple weeks.

Clipper of the Game: Surely, Blake is still a bit hampered by his back, yet he showed no ill effects against the Mavs.  As Ice Cube said, " Messed around and got a triple double," which Griffin did. Towards the end of the game he banged up his ankle but seems fine. Griffin displayed his competitive fire to win when he told us that he would have rather garnered the victory of the stat stuffing triple double.

Runner Up: DeAndre Jordan kills the Mavs, plain and simple; he has all season. Thursday was no different as he posted 21 points and 15 rebounds. The evolution of DeAndre Jordan is continuous and his ceiling is rising higher and higher.

Friday: The Clips were off on Friday with no practice after the loss to Dallas. The Clips get a nice little cushion with two days off between games until the last two games of the season.

In the standings, the Thunder dropped a game to the Houston Rockets. The Clippers still have a slim chance to get the number two seed; they are still three behind OKC in the loss column.  If OKC stumbles before Wednesday, the Clippers could have a chance to even things and win the season series on Wednesday.

Saturday: Practice, practice, practice for the Clips. Over the past couple weeks, the Clips have not been able to practice, and with the injuries they are limited with who is available.

Doc Rivers said that J.J. Redick responded well to his night of play, on Thursday. Both Jamal Crawford and Danny Granger are still out. There is a chance that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin could sit out a game, per Doc.

Blake Griffin said his ankle is good and he will continue to monitor his back. He is comfortable with his pain threshold and will continue treatment for the injury.

Next up for Clips will be an ABC showdown with the depleted Lakers on Sunday. This is a game that the Clips should win, but they have to take the Lakers seriously. It was opening night where the Lakers shocked the Clips after people anointed them as one of the league's best, prior to the season. In the past two games, the Clips have walloped the Lakers, yet it is key for Clips to set their tone and not permit the other team dictate the play early. All things considered, the guys in blue and red should take it!

Sunday: VS. Lakers

It was the fourth installment of Battle LA between the Clippers and Lakers. Other than the opening day blunder against the Lakers, the other two games have been blowouts for the Clippers. With the Lakers amongst the league's bottom feeders in the standings, the Clippers have been able to get some payback for all the seasons the Lakers owned them.

With J.J. Redick back in the starting lineup, the Clippers had themselves intact for the first time in a while.  Redick was up to his old tricks early by getting involved in the scoring.  Before Redick's injury, he had been one of the most productive, first quarter players. He looked really good in the afternoon as he came off screens and drained shots, and finished with 15 points.

The game itself was very anticlimactic; the Lakers stayed within striking distance for a bit, but before the end of the first half, the Clippers found some wiggle room that they failed to use to their advantage.

Not known for his long distance range, Chris Paul had twelve of his 23 points from long distance, going 4-4 from deep. This is very encouraging for the Clippers, as Paul had been struggling with his deep ball for the majority of the season. With Paul being more effective from three-point range, it created a new element to help the team.

As usual Blake Griffin played with pluck!  Griffin was stellar in transition receiving and delivering the rock.  Despite his back, Griffin looked sharp with 23 points and seven boards. DeAndre Jordan was once again all over the glass and finished at the rim, and he notched another double-double with 11 points and 12 boards.

The LA Story in this game was the Clippers, as they won three of four for the season from the Lakers. It will always be a Laker town to certain extent, but currently the Clippers are by far the best team in LA. The Clippers have waited a long time to reign supreme in LA, but this year they will be all alone in the playoffs as the Lakers hit the golf course.

Clipper of the Game: It is so nice to see J.J. Redick back in the starting lineup, helping this team get back on the right page.  Sure, his stat sheets doesn't jump out at you, but as a fan it is very encouraging the way Redick played today.  With J.J. back in the starting five, shaking the rust off, he is the player of the game.

Runner Up: Chris Paul! If he maintains his confidence from downtown, and nails them in the process, there is no stopping this team!  CP  knows it is time for the cream to rise to the top.

Clipper of the week: It would be simple to give it to CP or Blake, but I'm going with J.J. Redick.  After listening to Redick, he was unsure if he was ever going to return. Unlike his wrist injury where he could do cardio, his back was a different story. There were times that things appeared bleaker than we ever imagined, yet, he found a way to fight through his back injury and make it back on the court.  J.J. is a player that doesn't need the ball in his hands all the time to make it easy for him to fit in. His constant movement makes the offense more active and deadly in the long run. Kudos to Redick! I have a feeling the best is to come.

Sink or Sail? Sail! The Clips capped a road trip 4-1 before coming home to have the Clippership pulled over by the Mavs. This was a successful week that had the Clips finish at 3-1, and still in striking distance with the Thunder for the two seed. And in case you haven't read this article, J.J. Redick is back.

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