The scoring for the first three quarters seemed to indicate two very evenly matched teams. 22-21 Clippers in the first, 28-26 Portland in the second and 25-25 with 2 seconds left in the third. But we know that these were NOT two evenly matched teams. The Clippers should have been completely overmatched, and from the moment Rudy Fernandez hit a buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter, they were. That three combined with a lopsided 36-15 fourth quarter, turned a one point game into a 25 point loss. But as I said to my buddy Jeff at the game (by the way, thanks Citizen Hipster), I count myself lucky - it was fun for three quarters. It could have been much worse.
I don't have an overarching theme for this recap. Or rather, it's late, and I can't be bothered to come up with one. So it's random observations for you.
- Truthfully, I'm not sure how the Clippers stayed close for 3 quarters. I think they had 4 or 5 shot clock violations at that point, Eric Gordon had a poor game, and Brandon Roy had a great game. It all spelled disaster, but it took a long time to spell it for some reason.
- I said in the preview that Gordon would get more shots than the 9 he took in the first meeting between these two teams. Well, I was right - but not by much. He only got 11, which is the fewest field goals he has taken in a game in over a month. He was getting a LOT of attention from the Portland defense - they started with Nicholas Batum, their rookie defensive stopper, on him, and Brandon Roy spent a lot of time on him as well. To make matters worse, while Portland was showering attention on him, the refs were ignoring him. He had seemingly begun getting some calls and had been getting to the line frequently in recent weeks, but tonight it was back to the rookie treatment - he only took 3 free throws, and one of those was an illegal defense T. EJ's scoring total of 11 was likewise his lowest in over a month.
- Brandon Roy is very, very good, but what makes him so very, very good is difficult to describe. He's deceptively good. He doesn't blow by people, or jump over people, or push through people. It's not an original observation to say that he utilizes change of pace and change of direction well, but it's an understatement. I used to play pick up ball with a guy in his late 40s. He could really shoot, but both his knees were creaky, and he wasn't quicker or faster than me. When I guarded him, I knew that I had to stay up on his shot, and I certainly had the ability to do that. But he continually got open looks. It wasn't that he went around me - he just had an ability, seemingly innate, to catch his defender off guard. If my weight was back a little, even if I was in otherwise good position, he knew he had enough room to shoot. If I glanced away to see if a screen was coming, his shot was off before I knew it. If I was leaning left, he sensed it and moved a half step right and shot before I had adjusted. That's what Brandon Roy does, times a million. He senses the game, feels where the defender is and where he's going to be, better than any player in the NBA right now. It's why he gets uncontested layups at the rim without ever looking like he's working particularly hard - he always has his defender, and even the help defender, leaning the wrong way. Everyone around me at Staples was complaining about the 'terrible defense' the Clippers were playing on Roy, but guess what? He makes almost every team in the league look that bad. It's not terrible defense, although it looks a lot like it. It's stealth great offense.
- Having said that about Roy, didn't the Blazer's Edge guys tell us he was in a shooting slump? What shooting slump? He finally missed a shot late in the second quarter, was the entire show for the Blazers in the first half, and finished 11 of 15 for 33 points.
- The BE guys were however right about LaMarcus Aldridge being unmotivated against mediocre competition. He didn't do much for his already slim chances of being an All Star reserve with this game.
- Steve Blake should have listened to me and stayed out at least one more game. He tried to go, but shut it down after the first quarter. He took two shots in the game, and both of them were airballs - not particularly close airballs.
- Speaking of airballs, Ricky Davis took one shot in the game - a three that he missed by 2 feet, wide right. The Clippers had 9 players in uniform tonight, after having 8 in uniform the previous two games. That gives some indication of the impact that injuries are having here, but it doesn't by itself tell the story. After all, the Suns went to the Western Conference Finals a couple years back playing 8 guys. You have to understand WHO these 8 or 9 guys are. In this game, MDsr seemingly gave up on Ricky, and to some extent on Jason Hart. (It may be that neither of them are completely healthy - Ricky's knees are wrapped constantly when he's not in the game.) And Cheikh Samb is obviously a project. Samb, Hart and Davis played 19 minutes between them, in a game that featured extensive garbage time. The 6 other healthy Clippers played the other 221 minutes. And it's not like Fred Jones and Brian Skinner and DeAndre Jordan and Steve Novak were on anyone's scouting reports at the beginning of the season.
- News flash - Steve Novak can shoot. Apparently, it was news to LaMarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw, both of whom left him to help and gave him wide open looks. Novak is so good, I simply expect the ball to go in every time. I'm a little shocked when it doesn't. He scored a career high 21 in this game. I thought they'd have trouble finding him minutes tonight because I didn't know who he would guard on the Blazers. But MDsr put him on Joel Przyblla, which allowed him to stay on the floor.
- I'm still not getting Greg Oden. Sorry Blazer fans.
- Sergio Rodriquez and Rudy Fernandez each made gorgeous passes in this game. I haven't re-watched it on the DVR yet, but Rudy made one pass to LaMarcus that I can only describe, based on one real time viewing, as a no look alley oop - don't think I've ever seen a no look alley oop before. It was a thing of beauty. Sergio meanwhile made a touch pass to Oden on an offensive rebound that led to a dunk. It was so quick, I think most of the crowd didn't even know he did it on purpose. I'm tempted to surmise that something in the way Spaniards play ball makes them appreciate the spectacular pass as much as the spectacular dunk - but maybe these guys are just good passers.
- Let's close with Roy again. The other thing that makes him so good is the way he responds to the situation. Late in the first half, the Clippers had opened up a 5 point lead and were building a little momentum. The Clippers almost came up with a steal on the Blazers next possession, but the ball eventually ended up with Roy in the corner with a short shot clock - and he calmly nailed a three. The next possession, he nailed another one. The Clippers 5 point lead was now a Blazers 1 point lead. Bye bye momentum. Early in the third quarter, it looked like maybe the Blazers were going to take over. But the Clippers came back and took a two point lead after a mini-run that included a monster dunk from Eric Gordon. The lead, the Gordon jam, a Fred Jones fast break layup and the crowd was really getting into it - once again, the Clippers were building some momentum. And once again Roy put an end to that nonsense. He threw down a dunk of his own that was every bit as impressive as Gordon's and suddenly the building was buzzing again - about the wrong team.
Wednesday against the Bulls. Rumor has it that Baron and Camby could both play in that game. I hope so. It would be nice to have a chance in a game.