The Clippers got the first road victory of the season that didn't come with an asterisk to improve to 5-13 on the road, 17-19 overall. Their once horrifying ratio of road wins to home losses is now at -1, which is actually 8th best in the Western Conference. After beginning the season 0-7 on the road, they've been 5-6 since, and have won half of their last 8 away games. It's still not a good road record, but it's a LOT better than it was.
Best of all, the Clippers have not lost a game this year when Sam Cassell plays. That's right, they're 2-0 in 2007 with Sammy in the game.
This was a good game - very entertaining. Of course it's always more fun when you win. Neither team could shoot in the first quarter, and there were some strange unforced turnovers throughout, but after the first quarter it was well-played. The shooting percentages were in the 30's to start the game (Clippers 7 for 21, 33%, Wolves 6 for 17, 35%). But in the final three quarters, the Clippers shot over 50% (28 for 55, 51%) and the Wolves were close (31 for 64, 48%).
I don't really have it in me to write a coherent recap, so I'll cheat and jot down some bullet points (ah, the bullet point - the blogger's best friend):
- I sure wish we had a guy like Corey Maggette on our team. We could really use one of those. You know... a guy who can manufacture points out of nothing. Corey scored 21 points in 29 minutes. He was 5 for 10 from the field and 11 for 11 from the line, including the go ahead free throws with 39 seconds and the game winning jumper with 5 seconds. Sure, he can drive you up the wall. For instance, taking it himself and turning the ball over rather than simply passing ahead to Livingston for the breakaway layup was a bold and curious choice. But you have to take the good with the bad.
- It's interesting that we just had some comments on a post in ClipsNation about EB never making a game winner. Well, he got the ball with less than 10 seconds in the game down 1, and didn't even LOOK at the basket. It's just not who he is. But Corey didn't even think twice. He took the shot and drained it.
- Mark Blount is a 7 year NBA veteran. He's 7 feet tall and 31 years old. Prior to this season, he had 1 career three point field goal attempt (he missed it). Prior to tonight's game, he was 2 for 5 this season. He took three against the Clippers, making one of them. That's kind of weird. Like, yesterday he decided he had three point range. I mean, seriously, how many 7 footers EVER added a three point shot to their arsenal after the age of 30? He's got to be the first. (Don't even mention Manute Bol.)
- I told you Blount had been hot; 21 points on 10 for 15 shooting. The guy can score, and he's just been white hot lately. It's probably killing Bill Simmons to see him playing so well.
- I said that Kaman needed to hold his own with Blount, and he started off as if he would. He scored the Clippers first 7 points of the game and 9 in the first quarter, when no one else could make a thing. Unfortunately, Chris rolled his ankle early, and had to limp off the court a couple of different times. 12 points and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes is respectable. It's too bad he couldn't play more.
- I don't like Zach Zarba. I don't like anything about him. I don't like his name. I don't like his weasely face. And I particularly dislike his whistle. The last time he reffed a Clippers game was December 29 against Sacramento, and I thought the officials were terrible that night. Tonight, Zarba seemed to go out of his way to point the T-Wolves direction on any close calls, oftentimes contradicting one of the other refs. Why Ron Garretson and Joe Washington are allowing 34 year old, 2nd year ref Zach Zarba to take over the game is beyond me. Anyway, three separate lower-the-shoulder charge/blocks went against the Clippers, and the block called against Cassell in the final minute was not just a bad call, but an incredibly important bad call. Did I mention I don't like Zach Zarba?
- Bracey Wright played 10 big fourth quarter minutes and made three HUGE baskets. He'd played a TOTAL of 28 minutes and made 4 baskets ALL YEAR. That's strange on a lot of levels. I mean, why was he even in the game? I guess he was in there because Jaric was hurt, but I'm getting tired of young Wolves having breakout games against the Clippers.
- In two games against the Clippers, Wolves starting point guard Mike James has yet to make a basket (0-9 combined). In the first game, Randy Foye picked up the slack and led the Wolves to victory in the fourth quarter. In this one, Foye was worse than James, going 1 for 10, and missing a whole bunch of bunnies. 1 for 15 from the point guard position is not real good.
- Sam Cassell went 2 for 3 from beyond the arc, making him 5 for 8 with the traditional ball (© Michael Smith). He was 4 for 28 with the micro fiber ball. He likes this ball better.
- The Clippers used their 13th different starting lineup of the season, starting Cassell and Livingston together for the first time. Unfortunately, Livingston had a rough game, going 2 for 10. It is disconcerting that all of Livingston's best games this year have come in the absence of Sam. He tends to disappear when Sam is on the court. He plays good defense, but his offense is non-existent.
- I felt sorry for Brand going against Garnett. I mean, Elton has made his living in the NBA partly by outworking people. But here comes a guy who works every bit as hard as Elton, but is 4 inches taller (at least) and 10 times more athletic. How many rebounds did Garnett simply take away from Brand? They'd battle, get about equal position, and Garnett's length and hustle would get the ball every time. Still, EB managed to outscore KG (21 to 19) on 10 for 17 shooting.
- Two games into the 10 day contract, and still no Luke Jackson sighting. There are only three more games before the 10 days are up.
The team has a couple of days off before facing LeBron and the Cavs at Staples on Saturday, followed by a home-and-home with the Warriors. The time off will give Kaman's ankle a little time to heal, and will undoubtedly do Sam and Corey and Cat some good also.
When they left for this trip, I think we were all hoping they'd go 4-2, and return home with their record back at .500. With three key players banged up, 4-2 turned out to be a little too much to ask. But the ClipsNation poll said that 3-3 would be Reason for hope, and indeed it is. In fact, 3-3 with a win over the Wolves is as good as or better than 4-2 with a loss to the Wolves. This was a big one. The team must feel significantly better about themselves after getting a tough win on the road over a hot conference rival.
Hopefully the feeling will carry over to Saturday.