It's just one game, and we don't want to make too much of it. The Warriors were missing Stephen Jackson (although Kelenna Azubuike's unconscious 33 seemed to more than make up for that). Overall, it is hard to imagine a more positive beginning to the Clippers' season that this win. There were a few defensive lapses, but the offense was more than adequate (of course we are talking about the Warriors here).
So many good things happened for the team tonight:
- Chris Kaman! 26 points, 18 rebounds. His rebounding in the first quarter was amazing. He actually dropped off from there and only ended up with 18. Here's the stat I liked best: 4 dunks. 9 for 19 shooting isn't great, especially considering the shots he was getting, but he was aggressive and focused, and committed only 2 turnovers. His steal to open the fourth quarter was a crucial.
- The conventional wisdom for how the Clippers can survive life-sans-Brand is that several different players have to step up on the offensive end. Mission accomplished. In addition to Kaman, Tim Thomas had 20 points and Cat Mobley had 21, both players coming off the bench. What's more, different players carried the team at different times. Maggette had 12 in the first quarter, Thomas had 12 in the third, and Mobley had 12 in the fourth. You could not script the 'step up' scenario better.
- Mobley in particular looked like a different player. Rather, he looked like the offensive force that he was earlier in his career. It's just one game, and certainly Cat has had a handful of terrific offensive games as a Clipper, but he just looked really aggressive tonight. With the Clippers clinging to a one point lead after giving up 8 straight in 2 minutes, Cat sank really tough shots on consecutive trips in the final 90 seconds to put the Clippers back in control. On the second shot, Cat got the defensive rebound, dribbled up court, backed Baron Davis down, and put in the bank shot. It wasn't what you would call great basketball, but clearly Cat was planning on winning that game. You gotta like the attitude. By the way, MDsr found a way to play Blanker 32 minutes, second most on the team, even off the bench.
- The Clippers made 7 of 18 three point shots, and four separate Clippers made threes. It's not Phoenix, but the willingness to shoot the long ball helped the offense considerably. Quinton Ross made his first three of the season, and Maggette made a three also. Thomas may have gotten a little carried away when he made a couple and then took three more in quick succession, but on the whole, it's a positive trend.
- All nine Clippers who played significant minutes looked good. Sam Cassell was limited to 23 minutes, which is not a bad thing. Brevin Knight was a better defensive matchup, and his team-leading 9 assists kept the offense running while he was in. Al Thornton looked good in his first 19 minutes as a pro - he's going to be very good.
- My only complaint is that the team went to Ruben Patterson in the post a few too many times. The offense bogged down and Patterson turned the ball over 5 times. It seems like there are better options. But I do like Patterson's energy. And how many players in the NBA are going to get the primary defensive assignment on Baron Davis AND two blocks on Andris Biedrins in the same game?
Golden State is a weird team. It's hard to tell much from a game against them. They can make you look very, very good, or they can make you look very, very bad. The Clippers aren't going to score 120 points very often, nor are they going to consistently outrebound their opponents by 17. But it's nice to have had this game to kick off the season. Hopefully it can be a boost of confidence for the team, and in particular for Chris Kaman.