That was certainly not the prettiest basketball game I've ever seen. In fact, for long stretches it was one of the ugliest I've seen. Of course, the Rockets had some excuses, playing without Kevin Martin and Shane Battier and several other reserves (and of course Yao Ming). But, particularly for a Clippers fan, the first quarter and early in the third were just gruesome to behod. There were stretches of the game, stretches that went on far too long, where it looked like the Clippers couldn't care less. But, to their credit I suppose, they seemed to pull themselves together and play decent basketball after they woke up.
Then again, maybe it had less to do with waking up, and more to do with getting the sleeperwalkers off the court.
There are a lot of interesting sidebars to this game.
Chris Kaman, 25 minutes, 4 points, 12 rebounds, minus 11; DeAndre Jordan, 19 minutes, 7 points, 8 rebounds, plus 16.
Kaman has appeared unfocused since MDsr stepped down as coach, and I think it's just the logical conclusion of the team sending the message that the season is over. More than most players, Kaman needs to be focused to be effective, and without motivation he's not going to be focused. It's a little disappointing, but not overly surprising. There have been a few games recently when it was pretty obvious that the team was better with Jordan on the floor - tonight Hughes pulled the trigger and went with it. This was Kaman's low in minutes for the year, excluding the blow out in San Antonio and the game in Phoenix where he got tossed on the first play of the second half. And DeAndre would have played even more minutes if he hadn't gotten into foul trouble in the first half. (To his credit, Kaman did rebound very well - a key factor in the game overall, as the Clippers beat the Rockets on the boards 56 to 42.)
Outlaw has been a major disappointment as a Clipper. It's not just that he hasn't shot well in LA (39% in 17 games). He just has been such a gunner, and hasn't done much of anything else to help. Hughes was sending a message tonight, and for the time being at least, Novak has supplanted him in the small forward rotation. We'll see if that lights a fire under Travis. As for Novak, we haven't had much occasion to talk about him this year, but it's been an incredibly disappointing season. His minutes have obviously been much less consistent, and you could argue that the lack of playing time has adversely affected his shooting percentages. But the truth is he was used just as sparingly in his Houston days, and he still shot an unbelievably good percentage from three (.479 from beyond the arc in 264 minutes his second season as a Rocket). He's making just a little over a quarter of his threes this season (14 for 50 after going 2 for 3 tonight). He's still a great shooter, and 50 attempts is not very many, but it's still been a disappointing season for our favorite shootist.
Smith absolutely saved the Clippers tonight. They made only 25% of the field goals in the first quarter, and were missing everything. They were getting great shots - layups and wide open threes, but still managing to miss. The Rhino came in and scored 13 points in the second quarter to help the Clippers to a 1 point halftime lead, and then after Houston had run off 12 straight early in the third quarter, he came in to save the day again. He finished the game with 25 points in a little over 25 minutes and was a plus 25 for the night. In a 48 minute game that you win by 6 points, that's pretty crucial. And there's no way to sugar coat the shooting of the rest of the team - it was awful.
It wasn't pretty, but a road win is a road win, and a road win in the state of Texas are particularly rare for the Clippers. It also happens to be Kim Hughes' first road win as head coach, so it had to feel pretty good.
With New York and Indiana on mini hot streaks, and Philadelphia even managing to win a game last night, I realize that this unexpected W is not helping the lottery odds. But I still don't think the difference between 7th worst and 10th worst amounts to much in the big picture, so I'll take the win - no matter how ugly.