The Clippers started the game with 8 players. One of those, Tim Thomas was looking more than a little green around the gills. Indeed, Thomas logged 12 first quarter minutes, then went into the locker room to throw up. (I couldn't figure out why MDsr had him out there in the first place. Maybe he said he could play and maybe he wanted to play, but he wasn't very useful. He managed to sink both of his threes, but he was just horrible on defense, offering no resistance to LaMarcus Aldridge at all. It wasn't his fault - he clearly wasn't right. I just don't know why he was in there to begin with.)
With Thomas driving the porcelain bus, the Clippers played the balance of the game with these seven players: Josh Powell, Al Thornton, Cat Mobley, Quinton Ross, Dan Dickau, Smush Parker and Nick Fazekas. Five of those guys are on NBA minimum contracts. Four of them have been waived or let go within the last 9 months. Basically, the Clippers played with Cat Mobley, Al Thornton and 5 other guys.
And they somehow made it a game. (Strictly speaking, since the Clippers trailed by 8 after the first period with Thomas, these 7 actually won their matchup with the Blazers over the final 3.) In fact, with the exception of Al Thornton who shot 2 for 10 and whose jump shot was continually short, every one played well - maybe as well as they can play. Dan Dickau was 5 for 5 with 7 assists. Smush Parker was 6 for 9 with 7 assists. Josh Powell scored a career high 21. Cat Mobley was once again a go to fourth quarter scorer after a slow start and finished with 24. Quinton Ross was 6 for 8. And Nick Fazekas was 3 for 6 and grabbed 5 rebounds in only 18 minutes. (By the way, the Clippers were +12 in his 18 minutes - maybe we should play that guy some more.)
In the end, it was a valiant effort, but not enough. The hot shooting (56%) meant that the offense was fine - but they didn't stop anybody on the other end. And the few times they did force a missed shot, Portland seemed to get the offensive rebound (they had 10... seemed like more).
Aldridge couldn't miss early but he faded in the fourth. He was 9 for his first 10 through three, but 2 for 8 in the final period. Last quarter notwithstanding, I'm incredibly impressed with Aldridge. He may have the best shot in the 18 to 22 foot range in the league - and he's 6'11"! The Clippers weren't throwing all-NBA defenders at him tonight by any means, but I don't see how you stop him if he can make that fadeaway.
And speaking of hard to guard, Brandon Roy is pretty good. One 'benefit' of being so short-handed is that the Clippers were forced to play Quinton Ross 41 minutes - so at least the top perimeter defender was out there most of the time. I'm not going to say that Q shuts down every one he guards - the top guys like Kobe and Wade kill him, like they kill everyone else in the league. But the next tier of high-scoring wings - the Kevin Martin, Michael Redd type guys - I kind of expect Q to take those guys out of the game when he's in. Well, Q kept him wrapped up for one quarter, but after that Roy decided he'd had enough. He finished with 21 points on 8 for 17 shooting and 7 assists. Does that mean that Roy is in the class with Kobe and Wade? He's pretty damn good, that's for sure.
- After looking terrible shooting the ball for three games, Smush Parker came out and sank an immediate three on his way to a big shooting night. He also was effective running pick and roll with Powell. (Although he did throw a couple passes too hard for Josh to handle, it's hard to blame Smush for Powell's bad hands.)
- A few days ago I remarked on Fazekas' long arms and his knack for grabbing rebounds almost flat footed. Well, as if to prove my point, he literally got a rebound and a follow shot without jumping in this game. The guy looks awful running up and down the court - but he can play. He's always around the ball, he's got good hands, and he knows how to score. Funny thing is, when he was first signed, I was expecting him to be effective on the pick and pop, shooting 18 footers, which we haven't seen at all from him yet. Instead, I'm most impressed with his rebounding.
- I'm still not completely sold on Powell, despite the career high tonight. He's showing a good knack for the pick and roll, and the pick and pop as well. He's making the 18 footer, which I did not know he could do. But his hands are not good, and he just can't finish around the basket. He's an OK rebounder, but it seems there are several rebounds every game where he's in position, but he can't handle it because of those hands. Of course, on a fully healthy Clipper roster he'd be the 12th man at best, and he'd be a pretty good 12th man.
The bet with Blazer's Edge all comes down to this game now. If the Blazers win and pull off the sweep, we have to write a song for them. If the Clippers win, they have to write a song for us.
I have theater tickets tomorrow night - Sweeney Todd at the Ahmanson. So I will not be watching until late, late (maybe even Sunday). I'm not sure how exactly the bet payoff is supposed to work. But anyone who wants to suggest songs, let me know. I keep coming back to something to the tune of Goldfinger...
They're the team,
the team with shooting touch,
Roy in the clutch
They're the Trail-blazers...