This was never much of a basketball game. The Charlotte Bobcats came in having lost 13 straight, and playing without their two leading scorers, Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin. The Los Angeles Clippers, led by North Carolina native Chris Paul playing in front of about 150 friends and family, put them away early and efficiently. The Clippers led by 34 briefly near the end of the third quarter, 84-50. Some particularly garbage-y garbage time made the final score a little loss lopsided.
Paul finished the game with 18 points and 14 assists in 30 minutes. In the third quarter when the Clippers really started rolling, he was doing pretty much whatever he wanted. I can't be certain, but it seemed as if he was diagramming plays -- not calling pre-set plays mind you, but designing them on the fly -- as he was dribbling into the front court. He'd say something to Blake Griffin, point him to a spot, and then a few seconds later would loft a lob pass toward the rim that Griffin swooped in to try to dunk (he happened to miss that one, the force of the miss carrying the ball into the third row of the arena). Paul knew that DeAndre Jordan was keyed up, and orchestrated a lob dunk for him moments later. The behind the back bounce pass CP3 delivered to a trailing Griffin for a monster dunk was as clever a pass as you'll ever see.
It's hard to know what you take away from a game like this. This Charlotte team is a different level of bad. You know it's a bad team when Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith are openly discussing if it might be the worst team ever. Those guys have seen plenty of bad teams, and covered entire seasons for a few of them. But the Bobcats are as bad as we've seen for awhile. At least right now they are. So you expect to get the win, and you move on to the next game.
Griffin finished with a 21 and 10 double double. Five of his seven field goals were dunks. He was 7 of 8 from the free throw line, continuing that very positive trend. Since introducing three rhythm dribbles into his pre-shot routine, he's 22 of 27, 81%. Many things will change for the better if Griffin can be an 80% foul shooter.
Jordan bounced back from a couple of lackluster games with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks in 24 minutes. I'm not sure what triggered it, but he got pretty upset with Bobcats rookie Bismack Biyombo in the third quarter, but took most of his frustration out on the rim on that lob from Paul.
Caron Butler scored 16 points on 8 shots, making 4 of 7 three pointers. After a couple of games where he was ice cold from deep (0 for 6) it was nice to see him dialed in. It may not have been needed against Charlotte, but it will surely be helpful against Dallas on Monday.
The blowout allowed the Clippers to rest their starters some and play some of the end of the bench guys (though a 10-0 Charlotte run to open the fourth quarter did get Paul and Griffin back on the court for a few moments). Eric Bledsoe made his second appearance of the season -- and picked up 5 fouls in 12 minutes. Bledsoe also managed two points and two assists, and showed some of the promise that he exhibited last season, but mostly it was just good for him to play extended minutes in an NBA game. He needs to get the rust off, but he'll be needed before this season is over.
The Clippers move to 4-1 on the road trip with a last stop Monday in Dallas. They should be about as fresh as a team can be on the final leg of a six game, 11 day, cross country road trip. And you can bet the competition will be better.