Improbable does not really begin to describe it. And there are a few caveats: three of the four opponents remain winless, a combined 0-13, and while the Pacers were undefeated before last night, their start was perhaps more improbable than the Clippers'. In fact, one had the feeling prior to the game that at least one of these teams was an illusion. We found out which one. The Pacers are not very good - certainly not when the overrated Jermaine O'Neal is not even close to as good as the overrated version of himself.
The NBA.com box scores have begun carrying the +/- statistics for each game: an interesting step in the evolution of basketball stats. Many times I find +/- counter-intuitive - the numbers don't jibe with my own observations. There are many possible reasons for this (for one thing I could be an idiot, but I generally dismiss that possibility) - players are always on the floor with nine other guys, so their personal +/- is in a sense only one tenth of the story. But one thing is clear from last night's box score: the Clipper starters DESTROYED the Pacers starters. Maggette +28, Kaman +25, Cassell +24 versus Tinsley -22, Granger -17, Dunleavy -17 and O'Neal -18. (This also illustrates the counter-intuitive part - Maggette did not have a great game, but Kaman and Cassell each did. Corey benefited from being on the floor with two guys who were dominating.)
Last season Chris Kaman's season high in rebounding was 15 - that's in 75 games. He's had 15 or more three times this season already. In 4 games. His best run of 4 consecutive rebounding games last year, he totaled 46. He has 66 in the first 4 games of this season. As a bounce back, you could not imagine a better start. Furthermore, it's not so flukish that you simply dismiss it. After the All Star break in 05-06 he was consistently a monster on the glass. So in the most positive analysis of his start, he's back and better than ever, and 06-07 was just a blip on the radar of his career. (Although 6 for 16 shooting nights remain disconcerting.)
Speaking of things that didn't happen last year: Sam Cassell had not scored 35 points in over a year, since Nov. 2 2006. Now, that one can be viewed one of two ways. Maybe he's back. Or maybe he's just as likely to suffer nagging injuries and drop off, given that he did in fact have a big game last November during what we recall as a very poor season.
Maybe the most important / encouraging / fun fact about the Clippers offense so far is that they've had four different leading scorers in four games. And not only that - each of them have had a BIG night, and each one bigger than the night before (Kaman 26, Maggette 27, Mobley 33, Cassell 35). Is Tim Thomas due for 40 against the Pistons? After that, I guess Dickau will have to go for 45 against the Cavs. This is of course just one of those things that happens, but it does prove that, far from being impotent on offense, the Generic Clippers have weapons. In fact all five starters are averaging between 15 and 20 (Mobley's really at 23 if you remove last night's game). The team has also made between 7 and 9 threes in each game. This is as unexpected as it is important to their success.
Speaking of Mobley's injury, Art Thompson of the OC Register reports that it's a strained adductor muscle (aka groin pull) and he could miss a week. I would take that. Pulled muscles have a way of lingering longer than that, and at least limiting a player's effectiveness if not keeping them out of the lineup altogether. Especially in 32 year old two guards. Hopefully he'll be back strong after a few games, but don't expect him in Detroit, which is too bad as the Clippers could use both his offense and his defense against the Pistons.
With Mobley and Patterson limited to 5 minutes each, and Knight taking the night off entirely, the Clippers were limited to essentially 8 players against the Pacers (so glad we kept Aaron Williams over Guillermo Diaz). The good news is that the reserves played well enough. But they were a combined 4 for 24 from the field. Of course, we're not really look for QRoss to score. The funny thing is, Thornton looked great while going 3 for 13 if that's possible. He was creating space, getting good shots... they just didn't go in. In fact, when I talked to my dad about the game I mentioned Thornton's 3 for 13 and he was shocked - he thought the guy looked great. And in a way he did. Certainly Paul Davis is struggling with his shot (he's 2 for 13 on the season) which is a shame, because based on what we saw in pre-season one would have though shooting was a strength. It's early of course, and he just needs to keep shooting.
I expected Cassell to have his way with Tinsley - here's what I said in the preview: "Sam thrives on smaller guards at the [offensive] end." The weird thing is, Tinsley and Cassell are both listed at 6'3" 185. Tinsley is no smaller than Sam - so why does Sam torture him? I'm not actually sure on that. Sam certainly likes to post up and muscle guys, but I don't think of Tinsley has supper weak either. I mean, he's not Baron Davis or Chauncey Billups, but he's no waif. Anyway, that one's something of a mystery to me, but I was pretty sure it was going to play out that way.