The Los Angeles Clippers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes and never trailed on their way to a 112-90 drubbing of the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night. It was the Clippers fourth win in a row. Perhaps more importantly for a team that has lost home games to Cleveland and New Orleans this season, it was the second time in a row that they came out at home and dominated a lesser opponent from the opening tip. Earlier in the season the Clippers didn't seem to have that killer instinct, the urge to step on the neck of a weaker opponent and finish them off early. After consecutive home romps over the Kings and Mavs, they may be developing a taste for blood.
The ESPN cameras may have something to do with it also. I plan to go back and check the TV schedule to verify my hunch, but off the top of my head I'd have to say that several of the team's highest energy performances this season have come at home in front of a national television audience. ESPN loves promoting this team as the most exciting in the league and tonight it was as if the Clippers had been watching SportsCenter all day and wanted nothing more than to live up to their Lob City moniker. Or maybe it's all a grand conspiracy since Dallas seemed to be in on the plan as well by throwing away pass after pass. The Mavericks finished the game with 22 turnovers leading to 26 Clipper points. During one stretch in the second quarter the Clippers seemed to get nothing but steals and dunks and threes while scoring 20 points in about four minutes to expand their lead to 18 and Dallas never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
There were really only a couple of blemishes for the Clippers' entire performance, primarily the play of the reserves in the first half. The second unit was dreadful to start the second quarter, squandering most of a nine point lead and looking pretty terrible in the process. But that same group made up for their poor second quarter play with a very strong fourth quarter where they inherited a 15 point lead and immediately pushed it up over 20 to give the starters the rest of the night off.
Blake Griffin had his second consecutive strong outing with 19 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block -- all in 28 minutes. That'll boost your PER in a hurry. Dallas had no one who could defend him; Shawn Marion was too small to stop him and all Elton Brand could do was foul him (way too hard every time it seemed to me). Chris Paul had 14 points and 13 assists to go along with his 5 steals to widen his league lead in that category.
Jamal Crawford, as he so often does, led the team in scoring off the bench with 20 points -- and in the fourth quarter he seemed to be actively passing up shots, racking up a few of his four assists instead. During L.A.'s 20-6 second quarter outburst Crawford scored the last seven points -- in just 14 seconds! -- when he made a corner three from the left on one trip then made a four point play from the right corner just seconds later after a Griffin steal. With that play Crawford added to his all time NBA record of 34 career four point plays. Later, Crawford and Eric Bledsoe put the coda on a definitive Lob City game with back-to-back Crawford-to-Bledsoe lob dunks in the final minute.
By the way, Rick Carlisle is an old school guy who played with Larry Bird and Robert Parrish in Boston -- my guess is he didn't like those plays one little bit and would like to do something about it the next time he sees the Clippers. (The ESPN broadcast showed Mark Cuban after Bledsoe's second dunk, and we know for certain that he did not like it.) Unfortunately for the Mavs, I'm not sure there's much they can do other than stand there and take it, because they just don't have the horses to run with the Clippers. As an aside to the aside, there seems to be something about Carlisle and the Clippers. Coaches rarely get into arguments with players, but after a rather heated third quarter discussion with Willie Green Wednesday night he has now gotten into shouting matches with Clipper players twice in the past three seasons -- you'll recall that Carlisle and Baron Davis had words with each other in January 2011 when Carlisle thought Baron had hit J.J. Barea (when in fact Barea had flopped). Like I said -- old school.
Dallas is no doubt capable of playing better than they did, and obviously they'll be better still when they get Dirk Nowitzki back, but even with Dirk it seems to me that they'll have trouble making the playoffs in the always deep West. It may depend on the backcourt of O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison, but whether it's just a case of his confidence being rattled after losing his job to Derek Fisher or something else, Collison was pretty terrible in this one with two assists and five turnovers. And no, Fisher isn't going to hit 3-5 on his threes very often -- I'm betting he won't do it again... ever. Mayo's numbers in the early going this season have been through the roof, but he's bound to regress to his career averages over time -- and then where will the 8-10 Mavs be? Denver, Golden State, Utah and Minnesota all seem to have the edge on the Mavericks at this point unless Nowitzki comes back in MVP form.
The Clippers are currently playing like they are determined to take full advantage of a very soft December schedule. They're 3-0 for the month so far (with a four game winning streak going back to November) including a win at Utah which is among the toughest games on their entire December slate. If they can continue to dominate the lesser teams (like for instance Phoenix and Toronto for a pair of matinees this weekend) they should be able to fatten up their won-loss record over the next few weeks.
If we can just convince them to play every game with the energy they show on ESPN games then they might not lose again until 2013.
|Final - 12.5.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||29||31||23||29||112|
For the Dallas perspective check out Mavs Moneyball.