The Clippers won their must-win game in Charlotte this evening. Never mind that the Bobcats were playing without their best three players over 6'7". It's still a win. And a pretty impressive win at that.
The Bobcats started the game on a torrid pace, made 11 of their first 12 shots, and led 37-32 after 1. But after giving up those 37 first quarter points, the Clippers clamped down and held them to 16 and 13 in the next two. The defense remained strong in the fourth, with Charlotte managing only 19 points before they scored 8 straight in garbage time.
Suddenly fortuitous signs abound for the Clippers.
- Chris Kaman was 5-6 in limited minutes against the teeny tiny Bobcats. After zero turnovers against the Rockets, he only had one in this game, though it was a doozey - he lost the handle on an fast break dunk, went up with the ball and came back down with it, and then had the audacity to argue the call. Sometimes he is just such a lummox out there.
- Elton Brand had an impressive second half after his strongest game of the season in Houston. He finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks, and his jump shot is falling again.
- Speaking of jump shots, Corey Maggette actually seems capable of making those lately - he made three in this game, another good sign. Corey was keeping the Clippers in the game early - he scored their first 6 points and assisted on their next 8. He finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
- Tim Thomas is playing like the guy the Clippers thought they were getting when they shelled out $24M over 4 years. He's made 15 of his last 25 three point attempts (he was 5 for 8 in this one). What's really crucial is that he is beginning to provide a consistent deep threat. He's made at least 3 threes in each of the last 4 games - he hadn't strung more than two such games together as a Clipper.
- And most important of all, Sam Cassell played effectively for the first time in the month of March. He came into the game late in the first quarter and looked healthy from his first touch. He made his first three shots (he had only made one shot in the month of March before tonight) and also had a couple of assists off of penetration.
So for the third game in a row, the Clippers played well. Ironically, although they are 1-2 in the three games, this is arguably the best they have played this season. Certainly it's the best they've looked in months.
The Warriors, Lakers and Hornets all won tonight - the Kings and Wolves lost. So the Clippers remain in a virtual tie with the Warriors for the 8th spot in the West.