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Clippers 121 - Atlanta 97

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Final - 2.7.2009 1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Clippers 27 28 35 31 121
Atlanta Hawks 17 24 31 25 97

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Well, three days ago I called for the coach to be fired and citizen Moki predicted that the team was about to turn it around.

So I guess we know who is better at reading a situation.

Since then, the Clippers have won two straight laughers on the road. After shooting a season high 59% from the field in Memphis, they shot 57% tonight. It's only the third time this season the team has shot over 50% - not surprisingly, they've won all three games.

The Clippers starting front court was in a word dominant - Zach Randolph, Al Thornton and Marcus Camby combined to score 72 points on 29 for 47 shooting. Thornton, who continues to absolutely kill his home state Hawks, scored 31 on 13 for 22 shooting, and also had 7 rebounds and 6 assists. He played solid defense on Marvin Williams, had a steal and a block, and just generally did everything well, which frankly is not something that we're accustomed to from Al.

Zach on the other hand had a game that we've absolutely come to expect. He finished with 25 on 10 for 18 shooting, and no one on the Hawks could stop him. Second year pro Al Horford was too inexperienced to deal with his variety of moves. Seven footer Zaza Pachulia was too lumbering to cope with his quickness. And when all else failed, he'd just step back and shoot a three. His three point shooting has been uncanny (not to mention uncharacteristic) since he became a Clipper. He's 29% from beyond the arc on his career; 37% on the season; 46% as a Clipper; and 7 for 8 in the last two games. Wow.

Every single player on the team shot 50% or better except for the point guards - and they combined for 17 assists against only 3 turnovers, so I think we'll take that. Baron continues to struggle shooting the ball, but if the rest of the team can continue to score as they have the last couple of games, it simply won't matter. I'd prefer that he take fewer shots (like the 10 he took in Memphis) rather than more (15 in Atlanta was too many), and hopefully he can make that adjustment. But he is creating effectively, and the overall offense is speaking for itself the last couple games. Like the man said, they don't pride themselves on defense.

It's worth noting that beating the Hawks in Atlanta is a slightly different thing than beating the Grizzlies in Memphis. Atlanta entered this game with a 29-20 overall record, 18-5 at home. The Clippers cause was no doubt boosted by the absence of Mike Bibby, out with a sprained foot, but it's a convincing road win over a playoff team, and those have been precious few. The Hawks missed 11 of their first 12 shots, allowing the Clippers to build a 17-4 lead. But whenever Atlanta tried to mount a comeback, Thornton or Randolph would slam the door with a timely basket or two. The Clippers never trailed, and the only tie was at 2-2. It was never really in doubt.

As for the irony of the team having their best sequence of games directly after my post calling for MDsr's head, I couldn't be happier. I said it was time to fire him after the performance in Orlando, and now they're playing better. That's great news, and I hope it keeps going. I have no explanation for why a team that looked totally disinterested for seven straight losses could suddenly look unbeatable in back to back wins - I just hope they can sustain it. I will say this - the game is much easier and much more fun when the ball is going in the hole. Here's the next question - can they win shooting 45%? Because they're not going to shoot 56% the rest of the season.

And in the 'getting ahead of ourselves' department, this team is coming up on winnable games in Charlotte and at home against the Knicks prior to the All Star break. Is it possible they could take a 4 game winning streak into All Star weekend, at which point they're supposedly going to be healthier than they have at any point in the season?

If I write it, but then I overstrike it, does that remove the jinx?

A few more observations:

  • Why does it look so easy for Al Thornton in some games, and so difficult in others? I suppose that's true for everyone to some extent, and certainly the defense has something to do with it. The main difference is that his jump shot was falling tonight. He was shooting it in rhythm, without the 20 jab steps, and it just looked... easy.
  • It's been said before, but Zach Randolph has got incredible hands. He led the Clippers with 9 rebounds tonight, and he just takes up so much space, and then gobbles up any ball that gets close to him. He's a unique talent.
  • In these two wins, Brian Skinner has gotten DNPs while DeAndre Jordan has played 17 minutes. That's an encouraging sign. Of course, MDsr is a matchups guy, and neither Memphis nor Atlanta has the kind of low post scorer that he likes to use Skinner on, so it may not be a permanent trend. But continuing to find minutes for the 20 year old Jordan is hopefully going to yield dividends down the road. He had 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 11 minutes tonight (admittedly, much of it in garbage time). He also had one of the more spectacular dunks of the season, when he went up to get a Ricky Davis alley oop that I thought certain was way out of reach.
  • Speaking of Ricky Davis, his fortunes these last two games have exactly mirrored those of the team. After being almost completely futile all season, he's suddenly on fire. He scored 24 in Memphis, and 12 in the second half tonight, and has made 10 threes in the two games. In that span, he has raised his three point shooting percentage from 25.8% to 35.4% - he's suddenly almost up to his career percentage. And he's doing exactly what he was signed to do: instant offense.
  • Eric Gordon had a quiet night, but still helped the team. He continues to play good defense, he rarely takes bad shots, and he's capable of creating for others (he had 3 assists). With Thornton and Randolph both working so well, the Clippers just didn't need Gordon to take a lot of shots. But perhaps the most impressive statistic in Gordon's impressive rookie season is the fact that he's now scored in double figures in 23 consecutive games. Even on a night when he doesn't get a lot of shots, he still scores. Rookies aren't generally known for their qualities of consistency.