So far this season, the Clippers are winning on the two D's - defense and depth. And that's a good thing, because you can pretty much count on those things every night (or day, as was the case in this game).
This game was not pretty. ClipperMax and I took the Blue Line to Staples, and as we were getting on the train, I realized that I had forgotten to set the TiVo. Midway through the first quarter, the 10 year old turned to me and said, "Well, at least it's not a problem that you didn't record it. We wouldn't want to watch this again."
He was right. It was ugly. Brutally, brutally ugly. Elton Brand scored on the first possession, and then the Clippers proceeded to miss their next 10 shots. This 5 minute scoring drought was matched by 6 whole points by NOOCH. After 8 minutes of play, the score was knotted at 6 apiece. I'm saying, the tape of this one isn't going to the HOF in Springfield. Maybe to Evergreen Terrace in Springfield.
The Hornets, for their part, committed 12 turnovers in the first quarter. That's one more than Detroit averaged per GAME last season. Six of those were Clippers steals, which is about what the Clippers averaged per game last season.
So, the Clippers could not make shots, but they were making things very difficult for the Hornets as well. Chris Paul managed to score 10 points in the first, converting a few really tough looks, or it could have been much worse for the NOOCHers. First quarter score, 22-16.
The Clippers never trailed from that point, although the lead did get down to 2 a couple of times. But with QRoss chasing Paul all over the court, there was absolutely nothing easy for the Hornets. Paul played 36 minutes. Ross played 36 minutes. Coincidence? I think not. (They also both have last names that are first names.)
On the offensive end, EB looked very good after a series of un-EB games. He finish with 22 points on 8 for 12, along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Fantasy owners, rejoice. He even made 5 straight free throws, after starting the evening 1 for 4, briefly dropping his season percentage to .500. He should have gotten more than 12 shots, but it's start.
After EB, the Clippers had 5 players between 11 and 14 points. That makes 5 games out of 6 this season in which at least 5 players have scored in double figures. So although the offense was not really humming, enough Clippers stepped up to produce a relatively easy win. One good sign - when NOOCH went into a zone in the second, Tim Thomas made 4 out of 5 threes to get them out of it.
The bad news - the on-going struggles of Chris Kaman. This hit ClipperMax especially hard, as Kaman is on his fantasy team. He would like to arrange a trade for a decent shooting guard, if anyone is interested. Kaman was 0 for 3, and scored 4 points in the game. In what should have been a very favorable matchup for him, he looked tentative and lost. The clumsy, fumbling hands of his first two seasons seem to have returned.
We'll need him to show up Tuesday against Utah and their quality bigs. At 6-1, the Jazz are the only team in the standings that the Clips are looking up at. A win would leave LA with the best record in the NBA. It's no small order - the Clippers have only won one game in Utah since 1989.
For now, we'll have to settle for 5-1, 5-0 at home, 5 straight, first place in the Pacific, 2nd best record in the NBA, and a +7.7 point differential. Sure, they're not playing up to their potential, but it's a start.