We've discussed the dichotomous nature of the Clippers current road trip. Seven of the eight games are either against the very best in the league (four games) or the very worst in the league (three games), with only a single game against a team that resides in the middle with the Clippers themselves. And so far the trip has gone pretty much as you might expect. LA lost to the Nuggets (good team) by 20 on Thursday. They beat the Wizards (bad team) by 14 today.
Of course the Wizards, even without Gilbert Arenas, still have talent. Antawn Jamison is hoping for an All Star team selection, Caron Butler is a former All Star, and Brendan Haywood plays like an All Star against the Clippers. But the rest of the team is really struggling, and more importantly the group struggles as a team. I mean, when Mardy Collins, definitely among the worst offensive players in the entire NBA, dribbles by his man and down the lane for an uncontested layup, something is clearly not right in the nation's capital.
The Clippers took the lead at 9-7 and never trailed again. Although the Wizards never caught them, it was something of a seesaw battle nonetheless. In the second period, a 7-0 Clipper run helped get the lead to 10 - but an 8-0 Wizards run to close the half cut the lead back down to two. Then, after they had cut the lead down to one, a 16-2 Clippers run stretched it out to 15, followed almost immediately by a 16-3 Wizards run that took it back down to two again. But a 9-2 run early in the fourth pushed the lead back out to a more comfortable level, and a 9-0 close to the game accounted for the final margin of victory.
|Final - 1.24.2010||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||30||18||23||21||92|
Beating the 14-win Wizards, given their state of disarray, is not the greatest of accomplishments. But the win is significant for a few reasons. For one, it came without Eric Gordon. The team was 3-7 in games without Gordon going into the contest, so nothing is a given without EJ. For another, it ends an eight game losing streak on the road. True, all eight of those losses had come against teams with winning records, a list that doesn't include Washington. But still, it's nice to get into the W column for the first time in over a month. Finally, it's just nice that the Clippers did what they needed to do to get this win. Looking at this trip in advance, it was hard not to mentally tally up four losses to the Nuggets, Celtics, Cavs and Hawks, and three wins against the Wizards, Nets and Wolves, leaving the Chicago game as the tie breaker so to speak. But on a pure talent basis, this game could have been scary, and could have ended differently. The Clippers did what they needed to do, and the trip is on course so far as it were.
Marcus Camby had a terrific game with 12 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. Baron Davis shot poorly again, but did everything else well and finished with 11 points, 11 assists and 5 steals against only one turnover. Chris Kaman had another 20 point game, and did so while taking only 10 shots. Those are the players you expect to carry the load.
But the Clippers got some nice contributions from unexpected places today. Ricky Davis had 13 points, and his jump shot really looks like it's back, which I didn't think possible the way he shot last season. Mardy Collins scored 5 points and dished 5 assists without any turnovers in 12 minutes of backup point guard duty - a huge plus for the team with Sebastian Telfair injured. The simple fact is that while Gordon is out, Ricky Davis has to play well, and while Telfair is out, Collins has to play well - because in both cases, the next option is JamesOn Curry, fresh from the D-League. Today they both played well, keeping Curry on the bench for his first NBA game.
The bad news on the day came on the offensive glass - particularly in the first half. The Wizards got 13 offensive boards overall, ad 11 in the first half. The ugly stat of the day is related to this problem: Haywood, 7 offensive rebounds; Kaman, 1 defensive rebound. Think about that for a moment. Opposing centers, on the court and matched up together most of the game. When a Wizards shot went up, 7 times Haywood got the boad, and only once did Kaman. I mean, we can make excuses and say that Camby is taking rebounds away from him. But today it wasn't just Kaman taking boards away from him; it was Haywood. And Haywood is on the other team, so Kaman shouldn't really be deferring to him.
Now it's off to Boston and a top tier opponent again. For the Clippers to have a good road trip, they need only beat the sub-.500 teams (including Chicago). For them to have a great road trip, they need to break through against one of the top teams. They beat Boston in LA last month - can they do it again?
One note. I have the Clippers at 3-0 in the blue road uniforms this season, with wins in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Washington. Given that they are 6-14 overall, that puts them at 3-14 in the red unis. Here's an idea - let's where the blue ones a little more frequently.
One more note. There's at least one person that's happy that Sebastian Telfair is hurt, and that's Mike James. James is a forgotten man on the Wizards - he hadn't appeared in a game since November 6. As it happens, the Wizards signed Earl Boykins a week later, and James fell completely off the depth chart. But with Telfair out, the Clipper point guards were the 6'3" 215 pound Baron Davis and 6'6" 220 pound Mardy Collins. Boykins made a brief appearance, got abused in the post by both Davis and Collins, and returned to the bench. James played 19 minutes in the game after not playing a single minute in 2 and a half months.