|Final - 3.15.2009
|New Jersey Nets
|Los Angeles Clippers
Well that was a pretty interesting and entertaining game. There was really a lot going on there.
I don't think I can weave all the different subplots into a coherent whole, so I'll fall back on the blogger's best friend, the bullet list.
- Again playing without Zach Randolph, the Clippers built a 12 point fourth quarter lead on some hot shooting, but gave it all back and fell behind by three with 12 seconds remaining. But with some help from the Nets, they scored 5 points in the last 10 seconds to win the game.
- Steve Novak went through a mini-slump from the All Star break until the end of February in which he made only 12 of 44 three point attempts over 7 games. But since then, he's once again on fire. He's made 17 for 30 so far this month, including a completely ludicrous 12 for 18 in the last two games. This game belonged to him - he led the team in scoring for the first time in his career, made a career high 7 threes in the game, and hit the game winner as time expired. That's a good night.
- After battling back to take the lead on some insane long range shooting, the Nets played the final seconds about as badly as a team can. With 12 seconds on the clock, a three point lead and a foul to give, they had all the cards. The first mistake was Brook Lopez giving the first foul way too early. He fouled Chris Kaman 35 feet from the basket after only two seconds had elapse. The next mistake belonged entirely to Lawrence Frank. I posted on the question of fouling with a three point lead when the Clippers were in a similar situation back in January. I concluded that I wouldn't give that foul in any situation, but I didn't know any NBA coach was frankly dumb enough to give it with 7 seconds left and the opponent still holding a timeout. By fouling with so much time left, you're basically saying "I think we can make at least as many free throws as they can." And if they don't, you've just given your opponent a chance to win, when before the best they could hope for was the tie. After Baron made two free throws, the Clippers almost got a turnover the first time New Jersey tried to inbound the ball, as Bobby Simmons used most of his 5 second count, and then the pass was knocked out of bounds (and Baron was pretty insistent it was off Keyon Dooling, which it may well have been in watching again on the DVR). When they re-ran the inbounds play, the Clippers funneled the ball to the Nets' worst free throw shooter on the floor, Jarvis Hayes, and he proceeded to miss a pair. The Clippers got the rebound, used their crucial final timeout, and had just enough time to set up Novak's heroics. Dumb, dumb, dumb by New Jersey.
- Of course, the Clippers had to give the game to New Jersey before the Nets could give it back. It was a strange slow-motion collapse. After Lawler's Law kicked in at 100-89 with 5:35 to go, the Clippers continued to play reasonably well. (By the way, I know I've said this before, but when it's the Clippers who get to 100 first, it's more a rule of thumb than a law. LA rarely seems particularly intent on enforcing the law.) Unlike the game against the Cavs, the Clippers continued to get some decent shots. In fact, their first shot after getting to 100 was a wide open corner three for the hero Novak, by far the easiest shot he took all night, and it just didn't go in. On two other possessions, Al Thornton got right to the rim on good aggressive moves that looked certain to produce either a basket or a foul, but each time he was turned away (cleanly) by Brook Lopez - simply great plays by the rookie. On the other end, New Jersey's threes suddenly started falling. Five of their final six field goals were threes, most of them with a Clipper in their grill. You can make up some ground pretty quickly that way, and they did. A 16-2 run was capped by Vince Carter's 30 footer for New Jersey's first lead since the first quarter.
- Carter was amazing (half man, half amazing I guess) as he so often is against the Clippers. One thing that the Clippers clearly lack right now is a long wing defender. Quinton Ross filled that role for many years, and while he was always a liability on offense, he did the grunt work against guys like Carter and there's no one on the roster to do that now. Baron Davis, Fred Jones and Al Thornton all took turns on Vince tonight, but no one really slowed him down much. And by the way, Vince made some really tough shots as well.
- That's three games in the last four in which the Clippers have surrendered a double digit lead in the fourth quarter.
- Back to Novak for a moment - it's interesting watching the guards look for this guy. Three different Clipper point guards found him in transition before the defense could get up on him. It's a case of knowing your personnel - Baron, Fred Jones and Mike Taylor each went out of their way to set him up as the defense was backpedaling resulting in three points. It seems silly to say in the 66th game of the season, but it actually looked like the Clippers were more comfortable with each other tonight than they have been all season.
- Although Chris Kaman is still a long way from Kaman 2.0 form, he took some baby steps in this game and finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds. He made a jump hook. He made a nice step through move. He also took some other steps - he had one of the more amazing traveling violations in the history of the NBA. I think he took two steps AFTER the whistle had blown. It's not so much the field goal percentage that will be the barometer (although that's an important one); it's the turnovers. And he had 4 tonight, just as he has every night since his return to action.
- Eric Gordon needs more shots. He scored 17 points on 11 shots, and 4 other Clippers got at least that many shots. He really needs to be getting the most shots on the team as far as I'm concerned.
- Among the things we've been hoping for from Al Thornton are consistency and rebounding. Well, in the last five games, Al has scored 20, 19, 20, 22 and 25. And in the last 4, he's averaged more than 8 rebounds. These are some encouraging trends, though they are obviously early.
It all adds up to an exciting and much-needed win, somewhat unlikely without Zach Randolph. We thought this would be the game where Randolph and Kaman and Camby would all be relatively healthy and together. I guess we have to wait until Tuesday night in Oakland for that.