Some wins in the NBA are ugly. But not all ugly wins are created equal. This one wasn't pretty, but the Clippers did enough things right to merit their 88-72 victory.
Any time both teams in an NBA game shoot less than 40%, it's probably not getting featured in any "Where amazing happens" commercials. The Clippers heated up late to raise their overall percentage for the game to 35%. Aside from Al Thornton who finished 7 for 14 and Sebastian Telfair who made 3 of 4 jumpers nobody on the team shot. In addition to poor shooting, the team also turned the ball over a frightening 16 times in the first half.
But in the second half, the team did quite a few things well. They played good defense, limiting the Pacers to 33 second half points and contesting every shot. They did a better job taking care of the ball, turning it over only 5 times (most of those on offensive fouls). And throughout the game, they rebounded. They finished with a 58 to 34 rebounding advantage, and came up with a season high 19 offensive rebounds. All those extra possessions resulted in 11 extra field goal attempts and 12 more trips to the free throw line. And although they weren't making many field goals, they did shoot their free throws very well for a change, making 26 out of 31.
And I can live with that. I'd like them to make more shots. Some nights the ball doesn't go in the hoop as often as you'd like, and there's seemingly nothing you can do about it, but you can always rebound. If you rebound, play defense, limit your turnovers and make your free throws, you'll have a chance, even if you're shooting 35%.
For the Clippers, the games are beginning to be completely driven by the fourth quarter. For six consecutive games, the team that has won the fourth quarter, has won the game. Not only that - none of them have been close. The Clippers have either dominated the final frame - or been dominated. Check out these fourth quarter scores:
- IND 25-16 W
- HOU 13-26 L
- MEM 33-7 W
- DET 30-21 W
- IND 14-31 L
- MIN 19-14 W
So simple right? Play better in the fourth.
Obviously this win exacts some revenge for the Clippers after they suffered a bad loss in Indianapolis 10 days ago. The Pacers played that game without Mike Dunleavy Jr. or Danny Granger. Tonight they started with both of them, but lost Granger early in the second half to a heel injury. Frankly, Granger didn't look particularly good when he was out there. He was 4 for 12 from the field, and most of his shots didn't even come close. And with Granger either struggling or gone, the Pacers offense was pretty terrible. Roy Hibbert made a couple of decent post moves. And other than that, it was guys shooting jump shots - and not particularly well.
For the Clippers, Eric Gordon returned to the lineup after missing the loss to Houston, and although he struggled a bit on offense (3 for 10 and 5 turnovers), his defense was excellent. It's good to get EJ back on the court, and good to get the win without him at his best. Hopefully the hamstring doesn't tighten up and he'll be sharper in the next one.
With Gordon's minutes limited tonight, MDsr experimented some with the 2 guard rotation. Rasual Butler continues to struggle, and appears to have lost confidence in his jump shot altother - he was 0 for 3 tonight, and hasn't made a three pointer since the Denver game, missing 16 in a row and counting. So while Butler played about 17 minutes, Mardy Collins got 11 minutes at the 2, and Ricky Davis played 7 minutes as well. Collins now has one more three pointer in the last six games that Butler. Mardy also does many things better than Butler. He can handle the ball and pass, and he's a solid defender, and a pretty good rebounder. Even Ricky is beginning to grow on me a little - he certainly seems energetic out there. Regardless, MDsr seems to be actively looking for alternatives to Butler, and it seems like a good idea.
The hero of this game for the Clippers was Marcus Camby. He finished with 12 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocked shots. He led the team in rebounds, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, assists and blocked shots. He was an absolute force.
The teams on the horizon are much better than the Pacers. The Magic come to town Tuesday, followed by the Spurs. Even the Wizards, who are up after the Spurs, have been starting to play better. The Clippers will need to shoot better to beat those teams. But if they can do the little things well as they did tonight, they'll have a chance in those games.