This just in: Blake Griffin is pretty good. Oh, and so is Brandon Roy.
Bearing in mind that tonight is Clips Nation Night and I have an appointment on the Staples Center floor with the other Citizens at the end of the game, this will be a quick recap - I'll do more later most likely.
The Clippers had an exciting season opener, against a talented Portland team. Roy was unstoppable in the first half, and it seemed for a half that he was simply not going to allow his team to lose, despite the fact that he wasn't getting a lot of help.
Griffin finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds and 4 assists. His athleticism is through the roof (as indeed was his head on a couple of early dunks), but his skill level isn't far behind. On one telling play in the third quarter as the Clippers were mounting a comeback, he led the fast break and hit Eric Gordon with the perfect bounce pass at the perfect time. It's a simple play - but a lot of guards in the league can't make it.
Speaking of Gordon, he was the Clippers' playmaker as they came back in the third quarter. He did a great job of getting to the rim all game long, and had a nice game (22 points on 17 shots), despite not making a single jump shot. He still struggles with his handle, which resulted in 5 turnovers - if he can get more sure with the ball, his ceiling gets much higher.
The Clippers held an 80-76 lead, but went stone cold. The Blazers ran off 15 straight (including a 30 footer by LaMarcus Aldridge at the shot clock buzzer) to take control and it was never a game again. The Clippers did themselves no favors by missing 11 free throws on the night, but it wouldn't have much mattered in the end. The Clippers' scoring drought was disturbingly reminiscent of last season. They went well over 6 minutes without a field goal during the crucial stretch of the fourth.
So there's plenty to be excited about - but there's a long way to go. The biggest problem is that the team still doesn't have a go to scorer. That won't be Griffin any time soon, and it wasn't Gordon tonight. Last season's leading scorer, Chris Kaman, who looked so good in pre-season, finished the game 4 for 18. Ouch. Until they find one, it's going to be tough to win close games.
[Note by Steve Perrin, 10/28/10 1:27 AM PDT ] I'm home after a fun time on the Staples Center court. I can tell you this - trying to organize a mini-basketball tournament featuring about 100 players on the fly with about one hour of court time is basically impossible. But it was still great fun. Can't wait until next time.
After thinking about the game more, and perusing the box score, I've decided not to be distressed about this loss. The bottom line is, other the Rasual Butler, the Clippers could not make a jump shot tonight. Sool made four threes, which was more jump shots than the rest of the team combined. Three starters (ostensibly in the three shooting positions on the team), Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Ryan Gomes, combined to miss all 13 of their shots outside of the paint. The team, outside of Butler, was 3 for 27 by my math.
Chris Kaman is not going to go 4 for 18 many nights this season. The team is not going to miss essentially all of their jump shots most games.
There's not much anyone can do about bad shooting other than hope it gets better.