I sometimes wonder, what were the circumstances under which Ralph Lawler came up with Lawler's Law? I mean, he's been broadcasting NBA games for 30 years, and back in the 70s and 80s, all the games went into triple digits. So then, it was more interesting. Games would end in the 120s, teams would hit 100 early in the 4th - Ralph begins to notice a distinct trend in which the first team to 100 tends to win the game. But there were lots of them, and the law must have been broken frequently back in the day.
In today's NBA, most teams average less than 100. There are plenty of games in which neither team reaches 100 and therefore the Law is not invoked. And then of course there are plenty where only one team reaches the century mark, and common sense would dictate that the Law is upheld in that case.
But think about it. Ralph Lawler has broadcast Clipper games for 30 seasons. Wouldn't a more applicable law, given his frame of reference, be "The Clippers will lose any close games, regardless of what team reaches what point total at what time - by the end of all close games, the Clippers will be behind." I realize that it's not quite as catchy as "First to 100 wins." But it's certainly been a more reliable law this season (in which Lawler's Law has now been broken three times).
The closing 11-1 Dallas run to win the game put quite a damper on what was otherwise a quite enjoyable radio listening experience. One can only imagine how much fun it would have been to actually watch the game.
With Cheikh Samb joining the team from Colorado earlier in the day but Jason Hart still not able to play, so the Clippers suited up the NBA minimum eight players, but Samb's total unfamiliarity with the play book limited him to a couple of minutes, so in essence the team had seven bodies. And only two of those were guards, so Mardy Collins (45 minutes) and Eric Gordon (46) each almost went the distance. (Gordon no doubt would have barring some fourth quarter foul trouble.) Al Thornton, battling flu symptoms, went 41 and the 34 year old Marcus Camby went 40.
It's a shame that the team was not rewarded with the win. With Gordon scoring 23 first half points and 31 through three quarters, LA, shorthanded as they were, battled back from 18 down to make a game of it. Gordon made 1 of 2 free throws on the first possession of the fourth quarter to cut the Dallas lead to 2, but unfortunately, that would be his last point of the night (it did establish a new career high). In fact, when EJ picked up his 5th foul with almost 8 minutes to go, I figured that it was over. Although Steve Novak's three had just cut the Dallas lead to one, it seemed impossible to imagine this makeshift squad, now even without their dynamic rookie for awhile, getting over the hump. I mean, Mardy Collins, Steve Novak, Brian Skinner, Al Thornton and Marcus Camby were on the floor. Where would the points come from?
But when Collins, a career 26% three point shooter, made his second three of the night, the Clippers took their first lead since the game had been 5-4. And then Thornton proceeded to score the Clippers next 8 points, eventually resulting in a 101-96 lead and invoking Lawler's quite toothless Law.
Was it a total collapse that resulted in the closing 11-1 Mavericks run and another heartbreaking loss in the Big D? Not really. Dirk made a three to cut the lead to two. After empty possessions for each team, Marcus Camby missed one of two free throws to make it a three point game. Howard made a tough jumper. Then Gordon probably made a mistake, trying to catch the Mavs in transition and getting his layup blocked as the Clippers clung to a one point lead with under a minute to play. One can understand his thinking - the Mavs had decided to double team him throughout the fourth quarter, and he had not managed to get a single shot attempt off in the period. He had to be frustrated, working with a career high hot hand, and it seems like he just decided to try to attack the defense before it got set. Obviously, it didn't work out. Dirk made a contested jumper in the lane to give the Mavs the one point lead. Then Jason Kidd picked Gordon clean on the next possession. Jason Terry made a driving layup with 6 seconds left, and Al's contested three for the tie was an air ball.
So it's hard to be very upset. No, they couldn't come up with a defensive stop in four of Dallas' final five defensive possessions. But considering that four of the guys on the floor had had basically no rest in the game, it's not surprising that they wore down. And alhough Gordon finished with two bad possessions, it goes without saying that the Clippers would have been nowhere in this game without him. They came up short. It was still a great effort.
I alluded to the fact that Gordon scored 31 of his 32 points in the first three quarters. Through three, he was 9 for 17 from the field and 12 for 13 from the line. In the fourth, he was 0 for 1, making 1 of 2 free throws. The Mavericks simply doubled him every time he had the ball. Nonetheless, he did manage to find his teammates, contributing three assists as well as the pass that set up Camby's late trip to the line. And that in and of itself is impressive for a rookie who just turned 20. Here was an entire defense loaded up to stop him. Yes, that defense had some success, partly because the rest of the Clippers roster is pretty anemic. But the fact that he saw those double teams, and that he didn't force shots against them but took on the role of playmaker instead, is no mean feat. But let's face facts - Dallas acheived their goal in the fourth. EJ finished the period with one point and three turnovers.
I didn't think the Clippers had any chance going into this game. Frankly, I don't think they have any chance in San Antonio Thursday, and by Friday in New Orleans these guys are going to be completely exhausted.
But Eric Gordon is a revelation, and it looks like he's going to make every game interesting.