The Clippers were unable to hit a home run in free agency this summer. They didn't land LeBron James on strike one, and they didn't swing for the fences thereafter. Instead, they decided to play small ball, trying to hit a couple of singles with Ryan Gomes and Randy Fore. Or maybe they were bunts.
For most of the season, it's really seemed more like the Clippers struck out. Gomes and Foye were always going to be underwhelming, but unfortunately they've significantly underperformed so far this season, even against their modest careers. Prior to tonight's game in New York, Foye was shooting a career low (and truly terrible) 35.6% from the field, while Gomes was also shooting a career low, 41% in his case. The low point for each may have come Tuesday night in Orlando, where Foye shot 3 for 13 and Gomes shot 2 for 11 in a game where the Clippers desperately needed them to step up.
But if Tuesday was the low point, then Wednesday in New York was the high point. Foye scored a season high 24 points and Gomes added 18 on 8 of 11 shooting, leading the Clippers to a win over the Knicks. Foye almost single-handedly preserved the win in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 of the Clippers' 28 points. The Knicks cut what had been a 20 point lead all the way down to three, but Foye would let it go no lower. After the score got down to 101-98, Foye led a 13-4 run in which he scored the first eight points and then assisted on the next three.
The Clippers were able to withstand New York's comeback largely because they had built such a large lead to begin with, thanks in no small part to Gomes. He made his first seven shots, six of them jumpers. The last two were back to back threes that gave the Clippers their first double digit lead of the game.
Foye and Gomes were huge, but they were by no means the whole show. Something about the Knicks' defense makes an offense look really good. In fact, the Clippers shot 54.7% in this game after shooting 54.4% against them back in November. Baron Davis had 16 points and a season high 16 assists. DeAndre Jordan made 8 of 9 field goals, seven of them dunks by my count. And Eric Bledsoe had his best offensive game in months, scoring 16 points. All told, six Clippers scored at least 16 points.
Ironically the Clippers managed to get a key road win despite Blake Griffin not being his sharpest. Griffin scored 10 of 17 shooting, which is nice enough. But he had a rare non-double double with only six rebounds, and he also committed five turnovers. It is worth noting however that Griffin's defense on Amare Stoudemire was a key part of the Clippers building that 20 point lead. Griffin drew two charges on Amare, saddling him with his third and fourth fouls and putting him on the bench for long stretches of the second and third quarter. Good thing too, because Stoudemire was pretty nearly unstoppable when he was on the floor, making 10 of 13 shots.
Bledsoe is perhaps the most interesting of the three guys who broke out of slumps tonight. When he was first thrust into the lineup by early season injuries to Davis and Foye, Bledsoe was an aggressive offensive force. He looked to push the tempo at every opportunity, he got into the lane frequently and easily, and when he got there he displayed a nifty array of shots around the basket including a very deft tear drop. And then, for the last couple of months, he went into a shell. He was penetrating, he wasn't attacking, he never looked to shoot, and I don't think I had seen that tear drop since November. Tonight the aggressive Bledsoe was back, and I hope he's here to stay. He's much, much better when he is attacking.
In the end, it's road win number four of the season for the Clippers, and the first win on the Odyssey. The opponents get significantly easier between now and the All Star break - though each of them are going to be looking forward to beating the Clippers no doubt. If Foye and Gomes (and Bledsoe for that matter) can play anything like they did tonight, the Clippers can still have a successful trip.