More than any other sport, basketball is a star-driven league; one player alone can affect a game in so many ways and end up being decisive to the outcome. Luckily, the Clippers have two stars in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul who played like superstars tonight, Blake scoring 22 points with 16 rebounds and 9 assists, just missing a triple double, and Paul putting up 22 points with 15 assists and only 1 turnover. The Clippers bounced back after they were trampled by the Grizzlies last night and now improve to 4-0 on the second game of back to backs (SEGABABA), and 3-1 on their road trip.
In the first quarter, the Clippers quickly made Blake Griffin the focal point of their offense, feeding the ball to him in the post and letting him make plays at the elbow, and he responded after a disappointing showing against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. It was evident early that Marvin Williams, a stretch 4, could not deal with Griffin's strength and Doc exploited that matchup with Blake going for 10 points in the quarter. Big Al had some gorgeous post moves on DeAndre early, with an exquisite jump hook to beat the shot clock, to keep the Hornets close. For most of the first half, the Hornets offense looked non-existent if they weren't throwing the ball into Al Jefferson. J.J. Redick and Jamal started the barrage from deep and Paul closed the quarter with an 8 point run, scoring 6 points and handing out 6 assists in the quarter. The Clippers led 31-23 on 52% shooting with 20 points coming in the paint.
The second quarter which featured both bench units of the Clippers and Hornets produced some ugly basketball all around. Cody Zeller was a stand out for the Hornets off the bench, scoring a career high 17 points in the game, and Roberts provided some shooting scoring 11 in the game. The Hornets bench unit, while not really having any flow or semblance to their offense played with energy and hustle, and accounted for more than 27 bench points in the half. Importantly, the Hornets bench got the Clippers in foul trouble early, and exploited that to establish a huge free throw advantage, keeping the game close. Turkoglu continued to play impressively for the Clippers at the back up small forward, making a three pointer and a couple runners. Jamal even had a ridiculous play where he threw the ball through Cody Zeller's legs ala street ball before getting fouled. J.J. Redick came back in and hit a couple key three pointers as the Clippers went into the half up 56-53 shooting 50% and having hit 8 out of 13 three pointers, but the Hornets had shot 14 more free throws than the Clippers, making 14 of 17 in the half to keep it close.
In the first half the Clippers had scored the majority of their points from inside the paint or from deep, shots that Daryl Morey would love as analytically they are the most efficient and most valuable for a team. However, the Clippers seem to invert their playing style in the third quarter as Charlotte changed their defense, doubling Blake a lot more quickly in the post and staying close on shooters, which opened up the mid range jump shot. And oh the Clippers love to take some wide open mid range shots, almost as much as Kobe loves to take contested mid range shots. In the third the Clippers took 7 mid range shots making 5, with Paul making 3 and Blake 2, after having taken only 6 in the first half. Bullock even happened to show some spurts of good defense to start the half, sticking to Henderson and forcing an air ball on the first play from the Hornets; maybe the kid is learning. Throughout the 3rd quarter, it felt the Clippers should break the game open, with leads hovering around 8 or 11 points, but they couldn't seem to pull away, going 1-6 from deep in the quarter. The Clippers ended the third up 78-70.
With the start of the 4th quarter, and the play of both teams reserves, it seemed like the Hornets were going to start making a run to get back in the game. The Clippers offense looked ugly and failed to produce any good shots, with both Farmar and Hawes seemingly hesitant to shoot when open, and the Hornets offense starting to look somewhat fluid for the first time. With the lead cut to 6 Doc brought Blake and Paul and J.J. back into the game with 8:39 to go and the Clippers went on an immediate 5-0 run to extend the lead to 11. From there to the final minutes of the game, the Clippers and Hornets traded baskets and plays with the lead staying around 11 points. For every run the Hornets would try to make, the Clippers would answer right back whether it be through big shots made by Blake or a particular crazy layup made by Chris Paul or mid range daggers from Jamal. With the clippers up by 14 with two minutes to go, the emphatically ended the game with 3 three pointers from J.J., CP3, and Jamal. This put the Hornets out for good 113-92.
End Game Thoughts:
Many people were picking the Clippers to get to the Finals based off having two top-10 players in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul on their team. If the two can replicate their performances from tonight, the Clippers will win a lot of games; they were amazing tonight.
Records! In this game in the 3rd quarter, Chris Paul passed the Logo Jerry West for 25th all time on the career assists chart. In the first quarter Jamal Crawford passed Dale Ellis for tenth all time in three points shots made.
The Hornets offense is bad. When they are not throwing the ball into Al Jefferson in the post, they don't really seem to be able to run anything to get a good shot, and even when they do get shots, they do not really have any shooters to capitalize on the double teams Big Al draws. The Hornets shot an abysmal 2-20 from three point land. It says something about Lance Stephenson and how subpar he played tonight that for many minutes Hedo Turkoglu was guarding him and he couldn't capitalize.
Cody Zeller is a good player. Zeller showed a lot of different things tonight from an extended jump shot to hustle and intelligent cuts on offense while just having an overall great game. Zeller lead the bench unit for the Hornets and set the tone, but it seems mind boggling that he isn't starting over Marvin Williams yet.
Hot Shooting. The Clippers continued the hot shooting from deep this road trip going a blistering 15 of 32 for 47%. J.J. Redick hit four three pointers in the game and seemed like he should've hit seven, still scoring 17 points in the game. Jamal made a staggering 5 three pointers on 8 attempts scoring 21 points in the game. Turkoglu and Paul chipped in 2 a piece and Bullock and Farmar both made 1.
Rebounding: The Clippers won the rebounding battle against the Hornets tonight 43-33, something that has been a struggle for them all season. They even recorded more offensive rebounds than the Hornets, and a large part of the rebounding can be given to Griffin, who totaled 16 boards, something we haven't seen out of him consistently.
Big Al vs. DJ: DeAndre played Big Al about as well as you could expect anyone to play the Post Professor. There were a couple occasions where Al burned DJ with amazing footwork and touch, but holding Al to 16 points for the game on 7 of 14 shooting is something Doc will take every time. DJ didn't really fall for Al's lethal pump fakes, not fouling him at all during the game, and Al didn't get to the line except in garbage time. DJ even blocked Al once going one-on-one.