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Clippers 98 - Grizzlies 91

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Last season, when the Clippers won an ugly game, I had no problem calling them out.  This season, especially now, with no Brand, no Cassell and no Livingston, any win is a good win.  

Memphis turned the ball over at a breathtaking rate tonight, yet the Clippers allowed them to hang around for most of the game.  But, to their credit, the Clippers maintained control pretty much the whole time.  The couple of times the Grizzlies took the lead (once on a three-pointer and later on a four-point play) the Clippers immediately responded, regaining the lead on the following possession.  In fact, the Grizzlies never had the lead and the ball in the second half.  That in and of itself is a significant accomplishment for the Generic Clippers.  In recent losses to Miami and Charlotte, they've gone through long dry spells, and come up with ugly empty possessions in crucial situations.  Tonight, every time the Grizzlies challenged them, they responded.  So why quibble over piddling questions like, why were the Grizzlies within a dozen points to begin with?  Why point out that the Clippers missed 11 free throws?  Take the win and fly back to LA.

I do feel a little guilty though.  I recently suggested - facetiously - that maybe Tim Thomas could stand to get injured.  Well, he left the game in the second quarter with a twisted ankle and did not return.

But one thing I'll say about the guys who got the power forward minutes as a result.  They hustled and rebounded.  Al Thornton (seeing minutes at the 4 and the 3) had 7 rebounds, 2 offensive, in 22 minutes.  Meanwhile, Paul Davis had 8 rebounds, 4 offensive, in 16 minutes.  By contrast, Thomas had 0 rebounds in 13 minutes before getting hurt, and averages less than a single offensive rebound a game.  I'm not saying, I'm just saying.  Neither Thornton (10 points on 4 for 12 shooting) nor Davis (4 points, 2 for 7) lit it up offensively
(though Thornton will do better when he starts getting a couple calls, say when he's no longer a rookie).  But I liked a lot of what they were doing.  Only good will come of getting more minutes for Thornton, that's for sure.

Kaman had an almost quiet 23 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks to increase his impressive season averages in each category.  The team is not nearly as good as it should be at getting him the ball in the right spots.  If they can ever figure out that part of the game, watch out.  Kaman did a good job of taking care of the ball tonight with only two turnovers (one of those was on an illegal screen - not good, but not an error with the ball).  After Mobley's shooting (see below), Kaman's turnovers is probably the second leading indicator of team success this season.  

Maggette had a quintessential Maggette game.  Although his jump shot is much improved this season, he did not settle for it today.  Only one of his seven made baskets came from outside of the paint.  He scored 23 points on 11 shots in 32 minutes, and would have had more had he not had an off-night from the line (7 for 11).  He finished not one, not two, but three and-ones in the course of the game, and should have had a fourth but the foul was called against him (it's not a foul on Maggette if Mike Miller sticks his face into Corey's elbow, it's a foul on Miller's face - maybe they made the mistake of thinking Corey hit a girl).  It was strange that MDsr left Corey on the bench for the vast majority of the fourth quarter, especially given that Corey had it going.  At first I thought maybe the hamstring was flaring up.  But it seems more likely that the unit on the floor was being successful, and MDsr wanted to stick with it.  Hard to argue with the win.

Cat Mobley had a solid game, and made a couple of big fourth quarter buckets, reminiscent of the 4-0 start.  The win in New Jersey came when Cat shot under 42% making the Clippers 1 and 11 when he shoots that poorly and ending that metric's 100% accuracy rate in predicting Clipper wins and losses.  However, tonight's win makes them 7-0 in games where he shoots better than 42%, so the wins side of the equation is still perfect.  42% Cat.  It doesn't really seem like so much to ask.

I realize the Grizzlies were playing without their best player, but they sure looked like a mess.  Darko Milicic has horribly bad hands and appears to be nothing other than big.  Rudy Gay, for all his ability, seemed pretty easy to defend.  Rookie Juan Carlos Navarro was unimpressive.  Mike Miller is as advertised on offense, but he's such a poor defender that he gives back most of the points he scores.  They can't possibly be this sloppy with the ball every night, but it's hard to imagine how they could ever win without valuing the ball more.

So the Clippers are 9-13 and a respectable 5-6 on the road - it's better than the 20 win pace many predicted, but given the level of the competition thus far, it's more than a little disappointing.  That competition gets much tougher beginning Sunday against the Lakers.  While I'm happy to get the victories, the performances against the Nets and Grizzlies will NOT be enough against 12 of the next 13 opponents.  It's going to get serious now.