I'm going to try to keep an even keel, but this was a good win. More importantly, there were some very good signs in this game.
For one thing, the Clippers closed quarters well. This has not been the case for most of the season, but against the Bulls they won the game within the game at the end of each quarter.
1st - 12-3 in final 3:02
2nd - 11-5 in final 1:55
3rd - 6-2 in final 1:01
4th - 16-4 in final 3:33
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The fourth may have been Shaun Livingston's best quarter as a pro. With the game on the line, he scored 10 points on 3 for 4 shooting, all on aggressive moves. His defense was even better than usual, yielding a blocked shot and a couple steals in the quarter, and he also dished out one assist. When he beat Ben Gordon for a monster jam, he forced Scott Skiles to take Gordon out of the game, probably ending any hope the Bulls had of stealing a win.
Livingston's play was crucial, because after opening the game white hot, making 5 of his first 6 shots, Sam Cassell went ice cold the rest of the way, 1 for his last 10. Of course, this is what we thought we'd have this season - the depth to overcome a poor performance from one of the top players, as other players would step up. It hasn't always worked out that way, so it was nice to see it tonight. Sam doesn't have it tonight? No problem, go do your thing, Shaun.
It was also encouraging to see Tim Thomas play with some passion. He had his first double double as a Clipper, with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also had two impressive dunks which is not something we've seen from him very often. He looked very much like he cared for an extended period of time in the game.
The Clippers received the expected performances from the likes of Elton Brand (26 points on 9 for 17 shooting, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks), Quinton Ross (great defense on Ben Gordon, including a key steal in the fourth) and Corey Maggette (15 points on 4 shots - wow). Again, the Clippers depth overcame a poor finish for Cassell, and a lethargic performance from Chris Kaman (2 points, 2 rebounds in 22 minutes).
This win leaves the Clippers 23-22, above .500 for the first time since they were 10-9 in early December. They are back by themselves in the 8th position in the Western Conference (how do you figure the T-Wolves beat the Suns and then lose to the Kings?), but are embarking on a season-long 7 game road trip that begins Friday in Boston. Despite their 6-14 road record, they need to return from this trip above .500, which means a minimum of 4 wins. If they play like they have these last two games, 4 wins will just be a beginning.