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Clippers vs. Cleveland - Open Thread

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
January 15th, 2010, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Mo Williams
Eric Gordon SG Anthony Parker
Rasual Butler
SF LeBron James
Marcus Camby PF J.J. Hickson
Chris Kaman C Shaquille O'Neal

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The Cavs swept the season series last year.

First Quarter Notes:

Marcus Camby has too bad passes that have led to LeBron's first two baskets. In fact, the way the Clippers are shooting, they'd be ahead by ten or twelve instead of four at the first time out if it weren't for turnovers. Most of Cleveland's points have come off of turnovers - and most of them have been completely unforced - just bad, bad passes. As shorthanded as the Clippers are tonight, they certainly can't afford to be sloppy with the ball.

LeBron's third bucket comes after Marcus Camby can't handle a rebound that is all his. So essentially the Clippers have gifted him his only three baskets of the first quarter.

On the plus side, James picks up his second foul a few seconds later and takes a seat for the rest of the quarter.

I guess the Clipper wings have come to play tonight. In the first 10 minutes, Gordon and Butler have 10 and 13 between them, accounting for 23 of the Clippers 26 first quarter points.

Watching both Shaq and DJ shoot free throws in this game is very interesting. With Shaq, his form is terrible, his release is terrible - you understand why he's a terrible free throw shooter. DJ on the other hand has a fluid motion, and a nice release - but the results are even worse than Shaq's. DJ steps up to the line late in the quarter - swishes the first, and misses the second by at least a foot to the right, without exaggeration.

Although the Clippers lead at the end of the quarter by 3, 26 to 23, this was clearly a missed opportunity to build a nice lead. Cleveland got almost nothing from their half court offense - transition baskets off of turnovers and second chance points kept them close.

Second Quarter Notes

The feeling of opportunities lost continues early in the second quarter. Two of Cleveland's first three scores come on plays where they lost the ball at one point - only to outhustle the Clippers to the lose ball and score on the broken play. Cleveland's offense has looked TERRIBLE. But they're getting offensive rebounds and loose balls, and as a consequence the game is tied at 29 three minutes into the second.

Delonte West gives the Cavs offense a real lift in the quarter, and he also provides a sight I've never seen. On his first trip to the line, he acknowledges Clipper Darrell's U-G-L-Y chant, and does a little dance in between the first and second shots. He then proceeds to miss the second, so if the Clippers win by one we can thank Darrell.

Rasual Butler is having one of those games he used to reserve for playing against the Clippers. He's keeping the Clippers ahead almost single handedly. In fact, the two times Cleveland took the lead, Butler responded on the next possession to put the Clippers back on top. Oh, and he's also defending against LeBron.

The Cavs shooting percentage on initial possessions must be in the teens. They have eight offensive rebounds, and seem to have scored on each of those extra chances, yet they are still behind in the game. Of course, the Clippers are shooting 65%.

I know I'm a homer, but why does it seem that the Clippers don't get any calls, even when they're the home team? Every 50-50 call has gone to Cleveland so far, including a few that seem pretty inexplicable. LeBron just dribbled out of bounds a few seconds ago, but somehow it ended up being Cavs ball. Maybe it will make sense when I see the replay.

Continuing on that theme, I'm not sure why the refs last night spent two minutes reviewing Baron's elbow to determine if it warranted a flagrant foul call, but these refs couldn't be bothered to review Anderson Varejao's takedown of Craig Smith.

The Clippers, despite giving up nine offensive rebounds, take a nine point into the locker room at halftime, 56-47. The story is the Clippers hot shooting (64.5%) versus the Cavs hustle points (9 offensive boards, 6 steals).

Butler has 19 at halftime, Gordon 13, and Smith 12 off the bench. That's 44 points between those three.

Somehow I have a feeling that LeBron will take more than 6 shots in the second half.

Third Quarter Notes

The first half of the third quarter is a mish mash. The Clippers continue to make shots. The Cavs continue to be more or less a mess. But Clipper turnovers allow the Cavs to hang around and even cut into the lead. Mo Williams gets a couple of transition buckets, LeBron gets a dunk. The Clippers opened the first quarter with five quick turnovers, then got better in the second quarter. They open the second half with four turnovers in the first 6 minutes.

At least the whistles start blowing for the Clippers in the second half. The Clippers get to the line frequently - but unfortunately miss almost as frequently. There were eight fouls called against the Cavs in the first half - eight in the first nine minutes of the second half.

Hot shooting, lots of trips to the line. They should be ahead by more at this point.

LeBron is just not sharp in this game (so far). He threw one cross court pass about 10 feet over Anthony Parker's head and has mishandled the ball on several occasions. Another reason the Clippers have a nice lead - but should be further ahead.

An 8-0 run to close the quarter trims a 13 point Clipper lead to a measly 5 going into the fourth. Yikes.

Foruth Quarter Notes

The Clippers get some good news to start the fourth as Craig Smith returns, despite a bruised lower back. He makes a jump shot on the first possession, a badly needed bucket.

When Z picks up his fourth foul on his second illegal screen of the game, Cleveland takes him out and goes small. It seems like a dubious decision that may favor the Clippers, given that Kaman is out and DJ has been ineffective.

It seems like the game could get away from the Clippers at any moment, but Butler is not going to let it happen willingly. His three pointer a little more than three minutes in stretches the lead back to six, and ties his season high of 27. Coincidentally, he scored that against the Nuggets in another game that seemed unlikely to impossible for the Clippers to win. In that one they were missing Eric Gordon. This time, he's stepping up at home while the team is without Chris Kaman.

When he took another three moments later, he just turned around and walked away - he knew it was good. He is, as the say, in the zone.

Despite the Clippers continued hot shooting, Cleveland ties the game at 93 and 95. No problem - Butler makes his third straight three to tie his career high of 33. Ricky Davis has been defending LeBron the last few possessions, and trying to deny him the ball.

Cleveland takes their first lead since the second quarter on a Delonte West tip in. On the ensuing possession, Eric Gordon takes the ball hard to the basket and appears to get hammered - no call. (I can't speak to it - the play is at the opposite end of the floor from me, so it's not like I got a good look at the play. Gordon is clearly upset that he didn't get the whistle.)

With 6.7 seconds on the clock, the Clippers call time out. During the break, the refs review the possession call, which I literally have never seen happen, and did not know was possible. It's hard to imagine how this place would react if they changed the call - but they don't. So the Clippers down one, have a chance to go for the win. Baron comes up short at the buzzer, and Cleveland wins 102-101.