For one night - for a little over one half, to be precise - the Clippers were not the worst team in basketball. In fact, as they were dismantling the actual worst team in basketball, the Clippers looked like a pretty good team. Maybe it was just by comparison, but still. They had to fall behind by 15 before that good team showed up, but better late than never.
It's pretty difficult to explain the Clippers' shooting sometimes. Taking a gander at the shot chart for this game, in the first quarter Al Thornton made a three pointer and Baron Davis made a 16 footer, and those were the only baskets the team scored from beyond 2 feet. The missed 9 jumpers in the quarter. Then, in the second quarter, it was more of the same - 2 for their first 11 from outside of the paint. It was just brutal. But they battled back from that 15 point deficit behind some very strong defense (coupled with some pretty ugly OKC offense). Fortunately for them, the steals were allowing them to get baskets going to the rim, because they still couldn't make a shot.
Then, in the second half, suddenly the basket got big. They turned their percentage upside down and missed only one jumper in the third quarter. They weren't quite as hot in the fourth, but they continued to make enough jump shots to pass for an NBA team.
The Clippers aren't going to have many more quarters this season where they make 9 out of 10 jump shots like they did in the third. But if they play defense like they did (and indeed like they did down the stretch in the San Antonio game) then they won't have to. And that's what is most encouraging about this game - the Clippers appear at times to be a very good defensive team.
When they traded for Camby, I said that having him and Kaman as defensive backstops, the perimeter defenders could gamble for steals. Well, guess what? Cat Mobley had seven steals in this game and Baron Davis had four. (Although, to be fair, Cat was hardly gambling. He just picked Durant clean time after time.) 14 steals and 9 blocks is a LOT of shots you're taking away from the other team.
The bad news in the game (aside from the ice cold first half shooting) was the bench. The starting unit looked great. Even Baron Davis, although he remained ice cold (5 for 15), made major contributions passing (8 assists) and defending (the aforementioned 4 steals). But the second unit was abysmal. At one point, before Mike Taylor and Steve Novak hit some garbage time jumpers, they were 3 for 21. Tim Thomas and Ricky Davis, supposedly the instant offense off the bench veterans, combined to make 1 shot in 12 attempts. The Clippers fell behind with the reserves on the floor in the second quarter, and the scrubs even let OKC get a little momentum back in the fourth. MDsr, to his credit, came back with Camby and Kaman really quickly at the end, just to make sure the game didn't get close.
Kaman had an absolute monster game. Put it this way: his fantasy owners are very happy right about now. 25 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, 11 for 13 shooting, 3 for 3 form the line, and only 1 turnover. That's a game. He only took one shot that wasn't a layup or a dunk (he made it), and he actually finished his plays around the basket. He's made 54 of 81 shots in his last 8 games - that's 2 out of 3 folks. He's also been rebounding very well, with 13, 13 and 14 in his last three.
Marcus Camby also had a nice game, and the difference for the team was night and day when Camby and Kaman were on the floor. Kaman was plus 31 for the game and Camby was plus 30. Guess who wasn't on the floor when OKC went on their first half run? But they're not just doing the things you expect like rebounding and blocking shots. The Clippers just played better when they were on the floor. How about this stat - Kaman 6 assists, Camby 4. That's 10 assists from a couple of seven footers - many of them to each other. I've said it before, but the team could be very interesting if the two of them can develop some rapport. They're both highly skilled players for their size.
It's great news of course that Kaman and Camby are playing well - but the bad news is that the bigs off the bench were so ineffective tonight. Going into the season I surmised that one of them would have to be on the court at all times, staggering their rest. So far MDsr has not taken my advice, but many more games like tonight and he won't be able to ignore it much longer. Like I said, he did come back with his starting bigs pretty quick in the fourth.
So win number two is in the books, and although it's against the lowly Thunder, it was pretty emphatic, for what that's worth. A win in Philly Friday night will be more difficult (and much sweeter of course).