Tonight in Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Clippers played the sixth game of their season high seven game road trip. After starting the road trip with a 3-2 record, the Clippers seemed to have a chance to guarantee themselves of going at least above .500. Unfortunately, the basketball gods in Brooklyn had an entirely different narrative in mind tonight.
Early on in the first quarter, it appeared the Clippers were determined to run away with the game. They looked poised, engaged, and clicking on all cylinders. They had made 3 of their first 4 threes and with 3:28 to go in the first quarter, they were in control of a 13-point lead. And then it happened. The bench came in and the offense went with it. From that point on, the Clippers could only muster 21 points the rest of the half in 15:32 of game time.
The second half didn't go much better for the Clippers as the Nets held them to a paltry 18 points in the 3rd quarter after the Clippers only found the bottom of the net a grand total of three times in that period. Scoring was a chore tonight and the Clippers had zero interest in doing chores. Instead, the Nets did the dirty work and succeeded where the Clippers failed.
There were a few things the Clippers couldn't overcome. Namely, missed free throws. They missed 17 of their 51 attempts from the line. In what turned out to be a 9-point game, missed free throws proved to be somewhat costly. It wasn't a 9-point game, in all reality, since the bench of the Clippers played the fourth quarter and scored some meaningless baskets at the end of the game, including a layup by Crawford at the buzzer, to make the final score look more respectable than it really was.
Another thing they couldn't overcome was their lack of shooting from deep. After starting off by hitting 3 of their first 4 threes, they only made 3 of their final 20 attempts from beyond the arc. One of them was a heave by Chris Paul to beat the shot clock buzzer early in the third quarter. It cut the Nets lead down to 9. The Clippers never got the game back within single digits until Crawford's layup at the buzzer.
This road trip has been a struggle offensively for the Clippers. Tonight marked the fifth time in six games so far that they've failed to reach 100 points. It also marked the second time they've shot under 40%. In a game that saw them take 52 free throws, one could presumably wonder how the Clippers even managed to lose this game in the first place. A deeper look at the numbers could shed some light but the basic numbers tell the whole story. 17 missed free throws and 18 missed threes. A recipe for disaster.
Chris Paul led the Clippers in scoring with 20 points but also had a season low in assists with only 2. Blake Griffin struggled for much of the night, finishing 2 of 8, but did go to the free throw line 13 times where he converted on 8 of them. He finished with a double-double for the 17th time this season. Jamal Crawford chipped in with 19 points but missed 5 free throws himself, including his first 3 of the night. DeAndre Jordan contributed with 12 rebounds. The other two starters, Jared Dudley and Willie Green, went a combined 3 of 13 and provided little offensive support.
The bench, as a whole, was lackluster. They were a combined 13 of 33, which was primarily salvaged late in the fourth quarter when the Clippers finished the game on a 20-7 run. Before that, however, the bench gave up a 13-point lead and gave the Nets all the hope they would need in this game. The bench is still a major problem but at least Byron Mullens was +10 tonight thanks to that last run by the Clippers. Any time is a good time for a BM.
On the Nets side of things, Deron Williams had a great game after a first quarter that saw him be completely nonexistent. As did Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche. The key turning points of the game were Joe Johnson's dagger after dagger from deep and Andray Blatche schooling DeAndre Jordan to help the Nets close the 3rd quarter on an 11-2 run that stretched the lead from 12 to 21. It broke the Clippers backs.
Clippers only took 19 shots inside of 8 feet tonight and 41 from 16+ feet. As mentioned before, they did take 52 free throws so they were more aggressive than the shots inside would dictate but not nearly aggressive enough. Especially not when Kevin Garnett had four personal fouls and Brook Lopez had three personal fouls for quite a long stretch in the third quarter. Clippers got complacent and settled for jumper after jumper.
All in all, the Nets didn't really shoot that well. They hit quite a few contested shots, including a few of the Johnson threes, but the Clippers just had a really poor shooting night. I don't know if it was because of the tired legs from the back-to-back and it being nearly the end of a long road trip or because of last night's emotional game in Boston. No idea. All I know is that the Clippers offense without Redick is bordering on unwatchable. There's a complete lack of spacing, movement, and intelligence. I can't recall a Clippers team from the last couple years that featured this stagnant of an offense. Not even last year's squad.
Clippers have an off day tomorrow and then finish up the trip in Washington on Saturday. They'll need a win to close out this 7-game road trip with a winning record. The Wizards have their own problems but the Clippers will need to rise up and perform well in order to break their spell.
For the Brooklyn Nets perspective on the game, be sure to check out NetsDaily.