I'm not sure what to take away from this game. Does it mean that the Clippers have a chance to be pretty good? Or does it mean that the Kings are really, really bad? For tonight at least, the Kings were bad, but we can give some credit to the Clippers defense for making them look that way.
I was actually pretty worried at halftime of the game. The Clippers had been by far the better team, and had held Tyreke Evans without a point in the first half and limited Sacramento's easy scoring chances. But some unusually hot jump shooting had kept the Kings in the game. Carl Landry made 7 of 9 first half shots, most of them long jumpers, Omri Casspi had come in and hit some jumpers, and the Kings had made half of their six threes (a major bonus for a team shooting under 30% from deep). When Luther Head opened the second half with another three to cut the lead down to one, I was pretty nervous. What would happen if suddenly Evans caught fire? How could the Clippers be up by only one at that point?
Fortunately, the Clippers continued to dominate play, and the Kings stopped making jumpers. LA outscored Sacramento 30 to 16 for the remainder of the quarter. Blake Griffin shut down Landry in the second half, and with Landry neutralized, the Kings had absolutely nothing working on offense. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon had a monster second half, slicing and dicing the Kings defense.
Ah, yes, the Kings defense. We need to be careful not to get too excited about this game, because I have a feeling that the Kings defense made the Clippers offense look a little better than it was. Gordon and Griffin killed them - KILLED THEM - on the pick and roll. Yes, EJ made some nice feeds as he came off the screen and looked as comfortable as he ever has in that setting. But I'm not prepared to declare that this is the second coming of Stockton and Malone. The Kings defense was so lost that it's hard to judge how good the Clippers offense really was. They either left Gordon alone to penetrate to the rim, or jumped to him completely ignoring Griffin on the roll. With no rotation in sight, it was a dunk line for Griffin in the second half. As Steve Kerr pointed out at one point, it didn't even make for great highlight dunks, because there was no one there to dunk over. Come on Kings, who wants to be in the poster? Step right up.
Maybe this is the start of a new trend. After the Kincks game, defenders will refuse to rotate to Griffin for fear of being immortalized on YouTube. Nobody wants to be Mozgoved.
Gordon finisehd with 28. At one point in the first half he was 2 for 8, and he finished the game 8 for 17, so he was on fire in the second half. He also had six assists in the game. During the third quarter, he was either scoring or setting up his teammates. The fourth quarter was super ugly, and never got very pretty, but when Vinny Del Negro came back with Griffin and Gordon to restore some order from a hideous start to the quarter, it was Gordon passing to Craig Smith that built the lead up to 20 and allowed everyone to relax and enjoy Thanksgiving.
The Clippers U23 starting lineup definitely did the job tonight. Gordon had 28 and 6 assists as I've already mentioned. Griffin finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists (Kerr rightly pointed out that it's his ability to pass and make plays on the basketball court that makes him really special). Al-Farouq Aminu had a nice first half, and finished with 12 points on 5 for 8 shooting. DeAndre Jordan had 9 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes, shooting 4 for 5. Eric Bledsoe had 5 assists and only two turnovers in 31 minutes. Combined, the U23 starting lineup shot 27 for 49. They still turn the ball over too much, but when they figure that out, they have a chance to be really good.
LA dominated the game in almost every category. They outrebounded Sacamento 45 to 35. They outshot them 51% to 41%. The got to the foul line more often (36 to 32) and outshot them when they got there (78% to 63%). It was a dominant win. Yes, it came against a bad team, but after losing to the likes of Minnesota and New Jersey, it's almost better to see them dominate a bad team, since they hadn't done it yet this season.
One final note on this game. It shouldn't matter, but it kind of does. Since public perception, not to mention the perception of sportwriters and broadcasters, is so dependent on the specific games they see, it was no doubt advantageous for Blake Griffin to have a great night in a Clippers blowout win the same night that John Wall had a poor night in a Wizards blowout loss. With only two games played in the NBA tonight, anyone who was watching hoops was watching these games, and they all came away thinking that at this point, Griffin is the rookie of the year. In fact, get ready for a spate of "Blake Griffin is the best rookie" articles over the next few days. It doesn't matter in the big picture, but big performances on National TV definitely have a disproportionate impact on these sorts of awards.