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Clippers 115 - Bucks 96

The Clippers closed out the first half of the season with an easy win over a severely undermanned Milwaukee team.  But a win is a win, and it brings the Clips to within one game of .500 at 20-21, and more importantly to within a half game of the final playoff spot.  

Milwaukee played the game with only one of their starters, and he only played 19 minutes before fouling out with 6 points.  

Elton Brand carried the load in the first half, when he scored 23 of his 25 points on 10 for 15 shooting.  Cat Mobley came alive with 22 on 10 for 15 and Chris Kaman was a force inside, with 11 points, 11 rebounds and a career high 6 blocked shots.  Quinton Ross continued his torrid shooting, making 6 of 9 for 13 points, and Corey Maggette was the fifth Clipper in double figures, though he had to score most of his 15 points in garbage time.  

The Clippers as a team were +10 in rebounds, +4 in offensive rebounds, blocked 11 shots, and recorded 31 assists against 11 turnovers.  It was there third straight game with 30+ assists.

Still, the first half was disturbing.  There's really no excuse for giving up 58 points to this Bucks team, 34 in the second quarter alone.  To their credit, they took care of business in the second half, but allowing an inferior team to cut an 18 point lead down to 9 at halftime is a very bad habit too develop.  

A few other thoughts on this game:

  • Chris Kaman is absolutely maddening around the basket.  He was 5 for 9 in this game, but he should probably have been something like 8 for 10.  He had several balls he should have finished but did not.  The soft hands and nifty moves are great in that 10 to 12 foot range.  But when he's right at the rim, he needs to realize that he's 7 feet tall and 270 pounds and just dunk the damn ball.  If he EVER figures that out, his shooting percentage will increase by at least 5 points.  He misses way too many bunnies.
  • Shaun Livingston played after missing a couple of games with a sprained ankle.  Overall, he had an unspectacular game, but on two separate plays he showed the skills that put him at the top of Bill Simmons' Tremendous Upside Potential (TUP) list.  In the third quarter he picked up a loose ball in the backcourt, went behind his back to elude Earl Boykins (we're talking about a 6'7" guy with the ball outmaneuvering a 5'5" defender), raced up court, passed to EB and then finished the play on the return pass.  Then in the fourth, he drove past his defender in a blink and finished with a two hand flush.  It's going to be a lot of fun if the kid realizes he can do these things pretty much any time he wants to.
  • There is no more frustrating made shot in the NBA than the foot on the line, 23'8.5" two pointer.  Mobley made two of them in this game.  Get your feet behind the line and get three points if you're going to take that shot!  I'm sure it's just my bias, but it seems to me the Clippers must lead the league in 23 footers, even though they are last in the league in actual three pointers.  But it just seems like the other teams are smart enough, and practice the shot enough, to GET BEHIND THE LINE!

20-21.  Not the first half of the season we anticipated; certainly not the one we wanted.  But a second straight trip to the playoffs is there for the taking.  Minnesota fired Duane Casey today, despite the fact that his team has really exceeded most expectations.  It feels a little like a panic move, but it remains to be seen if Randy Wittman will improve their chances.  There's little question that the Clippers have the talent to beat out the Wolves, the Warriors, the Kings and the rest for a playoff spot.  

The second half of the season starts Thursday night against the Nets.