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Denver 105 - Clippers 85 - You Have to Make Shots

I have two points to make about this game.  I was going to make three points, but if the Clippers can't, why should I?

The first is that over the course of four quarters, with two teams playing, there was exactly one team that played well for one quarter.  The other seven team-quarters were terrible.  Because both teams were equally terrible, the Clippers actually were in the game for awhile.  They led by one at halftime.  That lasted until Denver had their one good quarter in the third.  But LA by no means looked good at any point in this game.  In fact, they looked like a team that played the night before, traveled until 4 AM, was adjusting to the altitude, and missing some key players.  All of which was true.

Most of the night, the Nuggets looked just as bad.  They were sloppy with the ball, and simply lethargic. In fact, for most of the game, that word describes both teams rather well - there was a lot of lethargy out there tonight folks.  The NBA - where lethargy happens.

Note to NBA schedule makers and TNT - if you want your Thursday night game to be remotely entertaining, don't schedule both teams for west coast games (i.e. late tips) and a thousand miles of travel the night before.  Just a thought.  Keep it in mind for next season.

The second point is that you have to make shots to win games.  When Steve Novak made a three with 45 seconds left, he ruined everything.  The Clippers worst three point shooting game of all time was an 0 for 14 game against the Timberwolves a little over two years ago (amazingly, the Clippers won that game).  Had Novak missed, or simply not shot, the Clippers would have broken their record for bad three point shooting in this game.  As it is, it was the second most three point attempts while making only one in franchise history - in a game in 2000, coincidentally against the Nuggets, they were 1 for 20.

The Nuggets on the other hand were 11 for 22 from beyond the arc.  Now, the TNT guys like to refer to that as "plus 30" but I've always found that to be a bit of a misnomer.  I'm mean, if one team is taking a ton of threes and the other team is taking (and making) twos, then the team shooting threes isn't plus 30 at all.  I might give you plus 10 (i.e. they got an extra one point for each of their extra three point makes), but plus 30 is a stretch.

But whether you call it plus 30 or not, tonight it was a huge factor.  Just for fun, let's do some math. 

The Clippers were:

  • 1 for 17 from three,
  • 34 for 90 overall (38%);
  • That means they were 33 for 73 (45%) on their two point attempts.

The Nuggets were

  • 11 for 22 from three,
  • 34 for 71 overall (48%);
  • That means they were 23 for 49 (47%) on their two point attempts.

The Nuggets, it's true, are a better three point shooting team than the Clippers this season - 37% versus 32%.  For what it's worth, the Clippers happen to be better at defending the three on the season.  But if you just give each team their season average from three in this game, the Clippers would have made 5 of 17 and the Nuggets would have made 8 of 22.  Add twelve points to the Clippers total, subtract 9 points from the Nuggets total - voila, Clippers win by one.

Of course it doesn't work that way.  Neither team wanted to work tonight - the Nuggets begrudgiingly put in the effort for one quarter and that was enough to win the game.  If the Clippers had made a couple more shots, the Nuggets would have had to work harder, that's all.  But the Clippers would have had to do a lot more than just make a few threes to be in this one.

The good news is that it didn't look like they were expending much energy out there - they certainly weren't hustling, which I find can really wear one out - so they should be super fresh for Sunday's game in Washington.  Let's hope that Eric Gordon is ready for that one, as he can actually shoot the ball.

Oh, and Craig Smith continues to be a beast.  And Kaman played OK.  That's it for the good news.  On to Washington.