|Final - 2.6.2009||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||33||35||34||24||126|
And now for something completely different.
After looking completely hapless for weeks, the Clippers decided to put on an offensive clinic in Memphis. The contrast between Wednesday in Orlando and tonight is almost beyond comprehension. Both games were over long before the final horn sounded. In fact, the third quarter score is probably the more important metric in each - Wednesday, the Clippers trailed 71-104 after 3; tonight they led 102-77.
The team shot a season high 59% from the field, and made a club record 16 three point baskets. And most of those came from some pretty unlikely sources - Ricky Davis made a season-high 6, and Zach Randolph made (a career-high?) 4. (Ironically, neither Baron Davis nor Steve Novak made any.) The Clippers effective field goal percentage for the game was... wait for it... 69%. That's just crazy - especially for a team with a eFG% of 46% on the season. So shooting 50% better than you normally do turns out to be a good way to win basketball games. Who knew?
For this night at least, the Clippers personnel all made sense. Zach Randolph was unstoppable - he's an almost impossible cover for any of the Memphis bigs. If he's then able to step out and make 4 of 5 three pointers, that's just gravy. Of course, when the guy is throwing in 50 footers to end the half, things are really going your way.
But because Zack was forcing a double team in the post, the Clippers had shooters open all game long as well. And it didn't much matter who got the kick out. Fred Jones made 2 threes, Eric Gordon made 3, and even Al Thornton made 1. And then there was Ricky Davis.
Entering this game Ricky Davis was shooting 31% from the field and 26% from three for the season. Those aren't typos. Those are his actual shooting percentages. The Clippers signed Ricky to be instant offense off the bench - but for the most part, he's been an instant disaster. Tonight he scored a season high 24, on 9 of 14 shooting and 6 of 10 threes. This game by itself raised Ricky's three point field goal for the season more than 4 percentage points. And the simple fact of the matter is, if Ricky can be the reliable bench scorer he was brought here to be, it could make a big difference for the team. You had to feel good for Ricky tonight - he's an infectiously enthusiastic basketball player, and he's just struggled so much this season. He was very happy tonight, and I was happy for him.
Randolph, Gordon and Ricky carried the offensive load all night. Z-Bo (15) and EJ (12) scored 27 of the Clippers 33 first quarter points. They had 41 between them at halftime. By the start of the fourth, Zach (29), Ricky (24) and EJ (23) had 76 combined. Gordon actually had a quiet second half with only 2 points, but his first half was so good that his line still looks great. He was 5 for 5 with 3 threes and 21 points at halftime, and finished with 23 points on 10 shots, despite missing his last 4 attempts.
For Memphis, Rudy Gay looked terrific, Mike Conley had a nice game displaying his astounding quickness, and Darko Milicic made a few nice moves, which is not something I've seen before. But everyone else struggled. Hakim Warrick, who has hurt the Clippers in the past, was particularly bad. He was 2 for 9 - he kept trying to score against Steve Novak (which seemed like a good plan) but he kept failing.
Memphis has two rookies participating in the Rookie Challenge in 8 days at All Star weekend, but neither of them showed up tonight. OJ Mayo, one of the leading Rookie of the Year candidates, had only 10 points on 3 for 9 shooting. Marc Gasol was almost completely invisible - 3 points and 5 rebounds. He couldn't defend Randolph, so that made it difficult for him to stay on the floor too much, but still, 3 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes is not enough. As for Mayo, it was the second time in two weeks that Eric Gordon has significantly outplayed a rival rookie head-to-head. January 23 he outscored Russell Westbrook 41 to 11. Tonight it was Mayo, 23 to 10. Those kind of games get you noticed. (To be fair, he was outplayed himself by Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley recently, though it wasn't nearly so stark.)
The news is not all good. The defense wasn't good, allowing an offensively challenged Memphis team to shoot 49%. It didn't matter on this night, but season and franchise highs on the offensive end will tend to compensate for some defensive lapses. The defense has got to get better if they want to win when the shooting comes back down to earth.
But why rain on this parade (even if it is pouring outside my window right now)? It's a good feeling to get an easy win, especially after losing 21 of the last 23. Amazingly, this starting lineup of Baron, Gordon, Thornton, Randolph and Camby is now 7-6 on the season - on a team that is 11-39 overall! Kind of makes you want to start that lineup some more, I suppose. It's misleading to some extent - the team looked terrible in two games in Florida with all of those players available, if not actually starting. But still, it's something to point to with some optimism.
Let's see which Clipper team shows up in Atlanta tomorrow. I hope they didn't use all of their shots up in this one game.