The Clippers, playing short-handed on the road against the team tied for the best record in the Conference, were able to make a game of it for a little more than a half. This despite very sub-par games from Elton Brand and Corey Maggette.
But a 26-6 run over 7.5 third quarter minutes basically provided all of the final margin of victory. During that run, CP3-for-MVP took over - scoring 10 points, assisting on 6 others, and generally being a nuisance on defense as well. In the end, Paul and David West combined to shoot 22 for 30. You can't let a team's best players do that and expect to win.
A few other thoughts:
- One of the more depressing developments of the last couple seasons is watching Western Conference power forwards outperform Elton Brand. Playing in only his 7th game after an 8 month rehab, it's not really a fair contest. But last season it was Carlos Boozer passing him by. This season it's David West, who was quite unstoppable last night. Elton is fully capable of returning to the top of the power forward heap next season, and the Clippers will need him to do so if they want to compete.
- Nick Fazekas continues to amaze and confound. While I rail against Kaman's Mr. Flippy persona who tosses junk up around the basket invariably missing shots from close range, Fazekas is Mr. Flippy in Spades. That's all he's got, but somehow the ball ALWAYS goes in. Kaman's crappy flips look positively text book compared to the array of pushes, flips, scoops and hooks that Fazekas uses. But he just makes everything. In the nickname department, Ralph came up with a good one last night as regards his 'knack' for scoring. He's Nick-Knack. I still like Ze Freak, of course. Having said that, it's not just our imagination that the guy is earth bound. Although he gets a surprising number of blocked shots, those have mostly come flat-footed with his freakishly long arms. When Julian Wright broke down the lane with only Fazekas to beat, Nick was barely able to get to Wright's shoulder as he was being posterized. It was pretty ugly. But that's fine - he is who he is. He definitely needs to get stronger. His nose for the basketball and soft hands aren't much use to us if he's going to be stripped of the basketball time and again after getting rebounds. But he's still only 22, and should be able to improve there. You can build strength - but you can't develop soft hands if you don't have them (ask Kwame Brown).
- Tim Thomas has done for us what MDsr couldn't - taken himself out of games. Thomas may prove to be a significant asset on a good team next season. But he's pretty pointless on a bad team.
- Smush Parker is the new Tim Thomas. He's clearly talented. He seems to be regaining his shooting touch, and he has a feel for running the pick-and-roll that none of the other Clipper guards come close to. But MAN is that guy frustrating. When he let Chris Paul steal an inbounds pass, because he was too unaware or disinterested or whatever to actually grab the ball... he just makes me want to scream.
- Speaking of screaming, I did, twice, during the second period of the game. On consecutive possessions, the Clippers totally botched fast breaks. First, a three on one after a steal that featured QRoss dishing to Josh Powell, who dropped the pass resulting in a jump ball; then, a four on two, where Maggette flat missed a wide open Brand cutting down the lane as the Clippers' numbers advantage disappeared. Basketball IQ is a term that is bandied about a lot, and I'm not sure I know what it means. But it must be said that the Clippers have a surprising number of players who have very little intuitive feel for the game they play for a living. Ross, Powell, Maggette, even Thornton - they all do lots of things really well on the basketball court. But when it comes time to see the floor, and make a simple, quick, intuitive pass - perhaps the only thing I personally do pretty well, for whatever that's worth - they can't do it.