The Clippers played a terrific first quarter on offense tonight. They scored 28 points and shot well over 50%. And they trailed by 7 at the break.
New Orleans made their first 5 three pointers of the game and 7 of 8 threes in the first quarter. Most of them came from their starting wings, Devin Brown and Peja Stojakovic. Now, through the first 6 games of the season, those guys were NOT their starting wings. Lucky us, Byron Scott found a combination that worked (really, really well, at least for this one game) just in time to play the Clippers.
Frequently, in a game like this, where Team A is playing well, but Team B is playing out of their minds, one of two things will happen. Either Team B will come back to earth, and the game will turn into a close, competitive affair. Or Team A will get frustrated at their inability to make any headway, and the game will become a rout for Team B. Guess which happened tonight?
The simple fact of the matter is, games like this happen. Whether you lose 112-84, or 85-84, a loss is a loss. And I don't happen to be one of those guys that was ready to write off the Hornets. No, they were not playing well as they opened the season 2-5, and yes they looked terrible against the Lakers last night. But I tend to think that the 49 wins last season and 56 wins the year before that are a better indicator of who they are than the 2-5 start. After all, Chris Paul and David West are the real keys to the team, so while the loss of Rasual Butler and/or the swap of Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor may have changed the team some, I fail to see how it weakens them too much as long as Paul and West are around. Regardless, I wondered in the game preview if perhaps the Hornets would have something to prove after their pathetic showing against the Lakers last night. Indeed they did.
But it really felt like 'just one of those games.' I mean, in the fourth quarter Steve Novak missed 2 out of 3 free throws and then Craig Smith got kicked in the head and had to leave. How do you explain any of that?
I certainly didn't help the Clippers were wihout Eric Gordon, out with a strained groin muscle. Funny thing - Kevin just posted about some of the very telling stats concerning EJ's importance to the team. According to 82games.com, going into tonight's game the Clippers were -25 per 100 possessions when Gordon is not in the game. Just so you know, most NBA games average about 100 possessions, so that stat would suggest that a Clipper team without Eric Gordon would lose by about 25. Without him tonight they lost by 28. Spooky.
It's hard to imagine that his presence would have made a huge difference, but you never know. His absence is certainly no excuse. Teams have got to figure out how to play with key personnel missing, and besides, isn't this team supposed to be that much deeper? I will admit however that seeing Griffin and Gordon behind the bench in sports coats was ominous - two twenty year olds, who are arguably the best players on the team and inarguably the future of the franchise, unable to do anything other than watch tonight.
At any rate, not much to do other than get ready for Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
- Kaman's consecutive 20+ game streak comes to an end as he finished with 14. Interestingly, he could easily have kept the steak alive had Mr. Flippy not made an unexpected appearance. He missed two absolute bunnies, and also missed 4 free throws. So by all rights, he should have been at 20 or 21 in this game. It's actually a great illustration of the difference between old Kaman and new Kaman. He was 6 for 12 for 14 points, but by all rights he should have been 8 for 12 for 20 points. This season, he's been making all of those easy ones - and a fair number of harder ones - and consequently he's been shooting close to 60 percent. By my math, those couple extra misses a night are the difference between Kaman 1.0 and Kaman 3.0: 7 for 15 is 47% shooting (he shot 45% in 06-07); 8 for 15 is 53%; 9 for 15 is 60%. If he makes those 1 or 2 easy ones that he used to miss every game, he's a NBA Player of the Week. There were other indications of Mr. Flippy tonight as well, most signficantly 4 turnovers, almost all of them losing the ball on double teams in the post.
- Devin Brown tied his career high with 25 points, resurrecting a tradition from last season that I would have just as soon let die. Are we really going to allow various journeymen and NBA hangers on to have career nights against the team again? Does Beno Udrih have the Clippers game circled on his calendar?
- Chris Paul is suddenly a deadly outside shooter. He was 13 for 19 from three point range coming into the game, which felt flukey. But all he did was shoot 10 for 14, and 2 for 3 from three, and he did it all effortlessly. If he's a great outside shooter, there's really no way to stop him. None.
- The Clippers got killed on the boards again, 45-36, against a team that is not big. The rebounding has got to improve. Al Thornton, who had been rebounding pretty well despite not playing particularly well, managed to get just one rebound in 32 minutes of play.
- If there is any bright spot at all, it may be that Ricky Davis actually appears capable of helping this team. He made some shots tonight, and looked much more effective than he ever did last season. I hope the team never needs him, but appears possible that he can contribute if they do.
Moving on. Thunder Wednesday.