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Atlanta 110 - Clippers 92 - Sliding Into AYSO Mode

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The transition always seems to happen eventually.  This season, it has been a little easier than in the past.  Rather than getting infuriated and frustrated with the mounting losses, at some point I can begin to embrace the ragtag bunch of players on the floor without expectations, and just cheer them in their fleeting on court successes, even as they lose game after game.  I call it AYSO mode, where as long as the kids are having fun and trying hard, who cares about the final score?  Hey, who wants a juice box?  Look, DJ's mom brought fruit roll ups! 

It's easier today to be in AYSO mode.  With the successful jettison of Sebastian Telfair and Al Thornton, the Clippers are officially in the great 2010 free agency derby.  So for now, it's all about dreams of mega stars, and it matters little at this point how realistic those dreams are.  So your little butterfly chaser out there tripping over her own feet on the soccer field could get a scholarship someday - stranger things have happened!

Of course, it's a little easier to get into AYSO mode when Baron Davis isn't playing, but that's probably a topic for another day.

It would be pretty tough to expect a win from the Clippers tonight, playing against a 33 win Hawks team while missing three of the top six players from before the All Star break.  In a way though, the roster shuffle looked a little bit like a blessing in disguise tonight.  With so much turn over (Steve Blake starting at point guard despite having never practiced with the team, Bobby Brown backing him up, DeAndre Jordan in heavy rotation minutes, Steve Novak getting significant time), Kim Hughes appeared to simplify things and the team looked a little better, at least at times.  Of course, Hughes was supposed to be simplifying things already as compared to MDsr, but while the overall scheme contained less complexity, he was still changing things on the players and expecting them to execute the changes, which they appeared more or less incapable of doing in the first four games under Hughes.  Tonight, there was just a lot of really simple basketball - pick and roll, pick and pop, some isos, that's about it.  And it worked much better on offense.  At least it did for three quarters.  When the team wasn't turning the ball over.

But the roster turn over has resulted in a bunch of turnovers - a problem that is becoming a real nightmare.  With 22 give aways tonight, the team has now turned the ball over 20 or more times in three of the last five games.  Twenty turnovers is an obscene number - to do it three times in five games is just absurd.

But back to our intrepid soccer players.  I love seeing DeAndre Jordan out there.  See, by getting these minutes now, he'll learn not to touch three pointers that are going in while they're sitting on the rim (sure, he should have known that already, but now he'll know for sure).  And Milph is right about Steve Blake - I love him already.  I think he'll be my favorite Clipper for the 29 games he's with the team.

Of the ten Clippers who played tonight, only three of them are likely to be with the squad next season, but at least they played well.  Chris Kaman scored 21 points on 10 for 17 shooting and also had 10 rebounds.  Sure, he had three turnovers, but that's a major improvement for him over recent games, so at least he's trending in the right direction.  Gordon scored 18 on 13 shots, his trademark efficient game.  Of his seven field goals, three were three pointers, two were impressive dunks and another was a layup.  He needs to look for his shot a little more, and take some of opportunities in the mid-range.  But you have to like a guy who can shoot with range AND also explode to the rim. 

The Hawks opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run that determined the game.  But there was an earlier sequence that I want to focus on, just for fun.  With four minutes left in the third, the Clippers cut the lead that had been as high as 16 down to 6.  On the next Hawks possession, Zaza Pachulia scored after taking at least four steps through the lane, an obvious travel that had the usually circumspect Ralph Lawler playing referee.  On the other end, Criag Smith missed an easy one.  Then Joe Johnson lost the ball out of bounds, but the refs incorrectly awarded it to the Hawks, who scored.  Then Kaman got his shot blocked on a play where he thought he was fouled, followed by a call that went against DeAndre Jordan fouling Al Horford.  It was a tough sequence.  The Clippers did a lot of things right, but couldn't catch any breaks and fell back down by 12.  Rasual Butler made back to back threes to close the quarter and cut the lead back to 6, but if they'd gotten just a couple of breaks in the interim, they might easily have been tied going into the fourth.  The Hawks would no doubt have still pulled away at the end, but this is what AYSO is all about.  Wistfully thinking about the bad breaks that kept you from being more competitive - winning isn't a realistic consideration.

So bring on the rest of the season.  I can't wait to see Travis Outlaw and Drew Gooden in Clipper unis, if only for awhile.  They can join the likes of Dominique Wilkins and Ike Austin, legendary Clipper rentals.  I've only got 28 more games of the Steve Blake era and I intend to enjoy them.  Did I mention he's my favorite Clipper?  He has the same first name as me!  Heck, we've even got another AYSO team coming to our playground on Saturday, so we could actually get a win.  If we do, I'll take everyone out for pizza afterwards.