As I said in the preview, a home game against Memphis is a game that you pretty much have to win. And indeed the Clippers did, 100-86. After getting off to a horrible start and allowing the Grizzlies to take a 31-21 lead in the first quarter, the game pretty much fell into place. Maggette, Thornton and Kaman all left the first quarter with 2 fouls each. But Corey and Al combined for 24 points between them in the second quarter to turn the 10 point deficit into a 4 point lead. When Maggette, Thomas and Mobley combined for 28 in the third quarter, the game was in hand.
I'm not sure if the Clippers defense got significantly better after the first quarter (it certainly could not have gotten worse) or if Memphis just came to earth some. But after giving up 31 points in the first period, the Clippers allowed no more than 20 points in any subsequent frame. But let's be clear - playing without Mike Miller, and with Darko Milicic going 0 for 7, this team just didn't have enough weapons. Brian Cardinal played 20 minutes for them. What more do you need to know?
For the Clippers, Corey Maggette picked up after the break where he left off before. He finished the game with 30 points on 17 shots. He made 9 of those, including 3 out of 4 three pointers. The 30 point night was his fourth in his last eight games. He is averaging over 24 per game in 2008. And he is shooting the lights out, both in front of and behind the arc. A career 45% shooter, he's shooting 54% in 2008. A career 32% three point shooter, he's at 46.5% since the new year. He's a pretty tough guy to guard when you can play him completely for the drive. When you have to honor the jump shot, there aren't a lot of guys who can stop him.
Tim Thomas played an outstanding game. He scored 17 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and passed out 5 assists in 27 efficient minutes. He also had 2 steals and a couple of deflections. It was Thomas' defense, believe it or not, that sparked the third quarter run that put the game out of reach. I certainly do like 27 minutes of efficient Tim Thomas more than 34 minutes of placeholder Tim Thomas.
Thomas' back appeared to be fine after the time off, but interestingly MDsr left Al Thornton in the starting lineup. Al spent the second half in foul trouble and ended up playing only 25 minutes, but he looked good while he was on the floor with 13 points. As I mentioned, his 11 second quarter points were key in getting the Clipper ship righted.
As for Kaman, he played a season low 28 minutes because of his own foul trouble (a constant problem last season, but a non-issue for most of this season). The first three quarters were a nightmare - 1 basket, 4 fouls, 3 of them offensive fouls. I've done a lot of hand-wringing about the slump he's been in since returning from his flu, and in the first three quarters of this game he looked worse than ever (when he was on the court, that is). Thank goodness for the fourth quarter. With 9 fourth quarter points and 3 fourth quarter blocked shots, Chris now has a very positive quarter to build on going into the Utah game (where the Clippers will need him if they are to have any chance). For the game, he finished with a line of 11 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks - more than respectable when you consider that he was limited to those 28 minutes.
And speaking of limited minutes, what do you suppose Sam Cassell is thinking right now? Sam also registered a (healthy) season-low in playing time, with just 14 minutes on the court. After seeing the team lose the first quarter by 10 with Cassell, and then win the second quarter by 14 with Brevin Knight, MDsr stuck with Knight to start the second half. For the game, Knight ended up playing twice as many minutes as Cassell. I'm sure Sam is wondering why the Clippers haven't traded him yet if he's going to watch Brevin Knight and Dan Dickau for 34 minutes.
That one was a gimme. The next 6 opponents are all tough. Starting Friday against Utah.