An interesting pattern has emerged over the last four games, which is to play really poorly in a winnable game, and then to play well and win a laugher. Sure, it's a better pattern than the old one, which was to play poorly every game. But it's still not enough.
And unfortunately, the Clippers have chosen to play poorly against division opponents (the Kings and Lakers) whom they are going to be fighting for playoff spots, while playing well against the Grizz (not going to make the playoffs) and the Magic (from the East). It would have been nice to reverse that.
But enough kvetching. They looked really good last night against Orlando. Certainly 12 for 14 shooting from EB makes a LOT of things work better in the offense, and he's not going to shoot 86% every night. But what I liked was the aggressiveness. When EB had an open jump shot, he took it. When he got the ball in good low post position, he made a quick move to the basket. At least for this game, the hesitancy of the early season was gone, and we see the results.
The Clippers have been plagued by slow starts all season, trailing after the first quarter in the vast majority of the games. Against the Magic, they had their highest-scoring first quarter (35) and highest scoring first half (66) of the year. And the Memphis game last Wednesday was the previous high for both of those. So the team has had fast starts in two of their last three. It's also nice that this one came against the East-leading Magic. I prefer the prefix 'East-leading' over the likes of 'lowly' and 'woeful' when discussing Clipper victims.
It should be noted that Shaun Livingston was the starting point guard in each of the recent wins, and three of the last four. He's played well in four straight, after being mediocre at best for most of the season. Whether MDSr has made a permanent change, is starting Livingston on the second of back-to-backs, is looking at matchups on a case-by-case basis, or is consulting Madame Tatyana and her crystal ball remains unclear. Given the way Shaun has played lately, and the efficiency of the offense in the first quarter of the last two wins, it sure makes sense to me to continue starting him. Think about it: if you're going to limit Sam's minutes at the age of 38, don't you really want those minutes coming at the end of the game anyway? Sam should be the closer. Against Orlando, this two-headed point guard contributed 20 points and 19 assists in 46 combined minutes.
The other surprise starter last night was Tim Thomas. This one struck me as strange, since Thomas had been absolutely dreadful the night before - based on his performance against the Lakers, starting for the Anaheim Arsenal in the D-league would have been a stretch. But MDSr was looking for something to get Thomax going, and he responded by shooting 7 for 11, making 5 threes, and scoring 20 points, by far his best offensive output as a Clipper.
Up next, the reigning champs. Although the Heat are a mere 7-9, they'll be much better than that, and a win will look good to the selection committee at the end of the year. Oh wait, that's college hoops. At any rate, the Clippers have twice now played well for an entire game. Let's see if they can play well two games in a row.