The ClipperWidow doesn't sit down and watch a lot of basketball games. Obviously, the games are on in the house, but she usually makes an effort to be in another room (or out of the house). Hard to blame her - I'm told I can get a little... let's say intense... during Clipper games.
At any rate, the ClipperWidow is not what you would call a basketball junkie. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But she's a very bright lady, and she gets stuff. Having said that, the whole family watched the game today from a Suite at Staples, and at the conclusion of the Heat's 100-94 defeat of the Clippers, the following exchange occurred:
ClipperWidow: What was the deal with the ref?
ClipperSteve: Which one?
ClipperWidow: The fat, bald guy. Why did he decide to take over the game.
ClipperSteve: That's Joey Crawford. He does that.
ClipperWidow: This game was threatening to get interesting. I was almost enjoying myself. And he just sucked all the fun out of it.
ClipperSteve: Yeah. That's Joey.
I'm not making this up. Now, I usually like to go back to the TiVo and review calls that I find questionable before commenting about them. And while there were plenty of Crawfordesque moments in this one, I didn't find it to be as egregious as it can get. Sure, he practically screams, "Look at ME!" every time he blows his whistle, but we're all used to that. Which is why it was so interesting to hear the ClipperWidow's view from the outside. At any rate, I forgot to set the TiVo before we left for Staples, so I can't say that this or that call was a terrible call. Saw the plays once, in real time, at full speed, and that's the only look I got.
But in the final two minutes of this game, there were zero buckets made. Thanks to Joey and the Clippers' inability to make layups (Joey had nothing to do with that), we just watched a constant parade to the free throw line. And it all started with a bizarre call by Crawford in the backcourt. 80 feet from the basket, with the Heat holding a 2 point lead and the ball, and under a minute to go, Joey called a foul on Maggette when he incidentally brushed against Udonis Haslem. Haslem didn't lose the ball - nothing much happened. In fact, Haslem looked as surprised as anyone that the whistle blew. Watching Crawford gyrate on the court, pantomiming what he felt Maggette had done, was frankly a little disquieting. Anyway, the subsequent free throws gave the Heat a 4 point lead in the final minute, and after the Clippers missed again, they were forced to foul. Here's the interesting thing: Joey even called a foul against the Heat with 7 seconds left and the lead at 6. The ClipperWidow thought it was a 'too little too late' make up call. Or maybe it was just another 'Look at ME! I'm still in charge, even if you all just want to go home!' Whatever. All I know is in the final 1:57, there were 10 free throws and zero buckets. The NBA - where excruciatingly boring happens.
Like I said, I haven't watched any of this on the TiVo, and maybe the replay shows that Maggette grabbed Haslem or something. But from the C-level suites, it sure seemed like Crawford inserted himself smack dab into the middle of the finish of the game. I didn't find a lot of specifics in the officiating to complain about in the rest of the game. Certainly it's strange that Chris Kaman earned exactly 0 trips to the free throw line when he averages 6 per game and he's got a quickness advantage on the Miami centers, who each average 6 fouls per 48 minutes. But that mostly seemed like Kaman being tentative, resorting to his Mr. Flippy persona, especially in the second half. And there was one seemingly ridiculous goal tend called against Kaman in the third quarter that had MDsr and all five Clippers pleading for justice. But other than that, the officiating was no big deal.
Anyway, I should probably get down to an actual game recap. I just thought the ClipperWidow's reaction to Joey Crawford was pretty interesting. What did you guys think about that call? About Kaman not getting calls?
As for the rest of the recap, When Kaman made a layup with 3 minutes remaining in the first half, the Clippers took a 5 point lead at 49-44. It was their largest lead of the game. Kaman was 6 for 8 at the time. From that point, the Heat closed the half with a 7-2 run for a 51-51 halftime tie. The second half started with 14-0 run, making for a 21-2 run overall spanning half time. Yuck. The Miami lead soon stretched to 16. In the first 7 and a half minutes of the second half the Clippers had significantly more airballs (3) than field goals (1), and the only make was a desperation QRoss three pointer that by all rights should have been a 24-second clock violation. They started the half 1 for 11, shooting almost exclusively long jumpers - not a good formula for this team. Unfortunately, the 'long stretch of complete offensive futility' is beginning to look like the trademark of the Generic Clippers.
Amazingly, once a Paul Davis jumper got the lid off the basket, the Clippers actually cut the lead down to 6 by the end of the quarter. Trailing only 77-71 going into the fourth, you got the impression that maybe they were just the better team, and that they would win this game after surviving their drought.
A Ricky Davis and-one stretched the lead back to 10 points and it looked bad again. But a 10-0 run starting at the 6 minute mark tied the game at 90 with 3:30 to go - the run culminated with consecutive Tim Thomas threes.
The next Heat possession, Wade made a VERY difficult 12 footer that seemed determined to stay in the basket despite it's best efforts to get back out. After Brevin Knight rebounded his own miss and set up Kaman for a dunk (his only bucket of the second half), Wade again delivered for the Heat. On the next possession, the Clippers ran the play they wanted, Maggette got the shot he wanted, but his layup just didn't stay in the basket. (That sounds familiar.) To his credit, he didn't quit on the play, and grabbed the offensive rebound. But he foolishly challenged Alonzo Mourning when he had no advantage with a predictable result.
After Haslem's aforementioned free throws, the Clippers once again got a layup - this time Mobley splitting the defenders on the pick and roll and getting all the way to the rim. Miss. Kaman grabbed the rebound and was alone next to the basket. Miss.
Three missed layups in a period of 20 seconds in the fourth quarter of a close game. With Cassell and Brand out, the Clippers know they don't have those guys to make big shots in big situations. But they have plenty of guys to miss them.
I have a few other random observations:
- Look at Wade's shot chart. He was 13 for 23 in the game, but he was 2 for 7 from greater than 15 feet - which means he was 11 for 16 inside of 15 feet. Every time he took a jump shot, I said a little thank you. If that guy could make a 20 footer consistently he would be completely unstoppable. As it is, defenders know they can give up the longer jumper and concentrate on keeping him out of the lane. To Mobley's credit, he made Wade's last two shots pretty tough and didn't allow him to get to the rim. To Wade's credit, he got deep enough and created enough space to knock down the 12 footers.
- Maggette had a nice game at 24 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. But he also had 6 turnovers, several of them of the unforced variety - throwing passes out of bounds, taking his eye off the pass as he was receiving it, etc. You know he's going to get charges, and you can live with that. If he would just cut down on the knucklehead stuff there would be very little to complain about in his game.
- Maggette actually won the free throw line battle with Wade - 11 to 10. Unfortunately, Udonis Haslem also took 11 free throws, and the Heat got to the line 27 times to the Clippers' 18. The rest of the Clippers outside of Maggette took 7 free throws - two of those for defensive threes. So we're down to 5 non Maggette free throws earned - three trips.
- Paul Davis had a terrific game. He banged down his first jumper and suddenly he had the confidence that he played with in the pre-season. He ended up 5 for 6, mostly on pick-and-pop jumpers. Unlike in previous games, he did not hesitate when he got the ball - he rose and took it in rhythm, and the results were much better. He made his first 5 and I don't think he touched the rim on any of them.
- Ruben Patterson didn't get off the bench a game after playing an instrumental role in the win over Sacramento. We all know that MDsr is the king of the matchup (and I'm not a big fan of Ruben), and with Davis playing well he got a lot of those power forward minutes that Patterson had been getting. Still, I can only assume we're going to hear from Ruben via the beat writers in the wake of his first DNP as a Clipper.
- Cat Mobley and Chris Kaman had a nice thing going with the pick-and-roll at the end of the first half. The Cassell-Brand pick-and-roll was the team's signature play two seasons ago, but there's been nothing remotely resembling successful pick-and-roll basketball this season. For a couple possessions in the second quarter, Mobley and Kaman looked like they had a go to play.
- Kaman got his 15th double-double of the season in his 19th game. He's now second in the league behind serious MVP candidate Dwight Howard. Kaman's 15 double-doubles are actually tied with Carlos Boozer, but Boozer has taken one more game to get there, so by any reasonable measure Kaman is second. In fact, Howard's 17 have come in 21 games, so they've both only missed double-doubles in 4 games. Impressive. 15 is one more than he had in 82 games last season. Still, 14 and 12 (and 3 blocks) was far from his best game. He faded in the second half against Shaq and Zo (both of whom have given him trouble in the past). We've already mentioned the complete absence of free throw line trips. But the big problem was that he started the game 6 for 8, and made only 1 of his last 8.