"How are we only down 9?"
"How are we only down 5?"
"How the hell are we only down 1 at the half?"
"How the hell did we end up winning by 14?"
Depending on how hard you hit the nog after that 0 for 16 first quarter field goal stretch, some expletive-laden variation of those questions likely left your lips this evening. Then you cursed yourself again for saying something echoed by Reggie Miller in-between those pretty sweet John Stockton All-State commercials.
It's tempting to call the Clippers 100-86 win over the Golden State Warriors the signature win of the season thus far. The Dubs are a heated rival and legitimate title contender, just the type of opponent the Clippers have not fared well against this season. Like it or not, the stage also matters--this game was the NBA's dessert on it's Christmas dinner menu.
So how the hell did the Clippers win this sucker?
More than anything else, the win proved just how gritty the Clippers can get. The Clippers shot 28% in the first half, including that horrific 1/17 stretch to start the game. While Doc may blame bad ball movement and a good Warriors defense, we all know the real reason. Vertigo. Caused by this...
But the Clippers kept it competitive in the first half through a combination of energized defense, some sloppy turnovers and poor three point shooting by the Dubs, and some savior play by Jamal Crawford, who atoned himself at least in part for the Kobe impression he pulled in Atlanta.
Crawford finished a less than mesmerizing 8 for 18 from the field. But considering Blake started the game 0 for 8, Crawford's early step-back threes and leaning floaters--the very shots that enrage you when he misses them repeatedly--kept the Clippers surprisingly close until halftime.
Blake was just plain bad offensively for most of this game. Having defended him for two years running now, Draymond Green seems to know each and every one of Blake's post moves (sometimes with the assist of a well-timed double team). Blake's much improved jumper also eluded him tonight, which meant Clippers fans began bracing themselves about 4 minutes into the first quarter for the traditional Barkley halftime scolding (which Shaq jumped in on tonight). To Blake's credit, he did make his presence felt on the boards, ultimately gobbling up 15 rebounds against a depleted Dubs frontcourt playing without Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli.
An offensive course correction (or regression to decency) was due in the second half, and Chris Paul led the charge with some New Orleans Chris Paul-style drives to the rim.
The question wasn't whether the Clippers were going to finally start scoring in the second half. The question was whether the Warriors were going to start burying their three-point shots and make a Clipper run futile.
But the Dub shooting gallery never really materialized. The Warriors went 9 of 32 from deep, and their 86 points was a season-low scoring output. Part of that was a concerted Clipper defensive effort, trapping Stephen Curry and bothering Klay Thompson enough on his looks. But part of that was also just luck. The Warriors has plenty of open looks, and the anomalously poor shooting extended to the free throw line, where the Dubs shot 54%.(The Dubs benefited from an anomalously poor three-point performance from the Clippers as well, as the team shot 9 for 32 from deep).
This game was not the type of game that eased neurotic Clipper fan worries about why the team just doesn't appear as fluid as it did last year. But it did ease neurotic Clipper fan worries that we can win against marquee opponents on a marquee stage. And a Bogut-less Warriors team certainly looks less like the juggernaut they looked like earlier in the season.
- Jamal Crawford: Bursa sac be damned, Jamal was not going to allow a horrific performance in Atlanta to keep him from chucking. And his chucking resulted in a team-high 24 points, half of which came on jump shoots arched from the troposphere. He also grabbed seven boards, which is pretty impressive for Jamal.
- Team Defense: The Warriors turned the ball over 16 times tonight. That's right about their average, and not all those turnovers were forced, but the Clippers' team defense played a major role in keeping the game close early. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and even Reggie Bullock all contributed solid defensive efforts tonight.
- The Emerging Chris Paul-Draymond Green Beef: Loved every second of the fourth quarter verbal altercation. My lip-reading had Draymond saying something to the extent of "I'm better than...", but I couldn't figure out whether he was referring to Chris or Blake.
- Blake: Just not his game tonight. Even the new Kia commercial was lacking.
- Rims: Good on cars. Not good for the Clippers' first quarter.
- Tony Brothers: He was actually fine tonight. But if he's ever involved in a Clippers game, he's getting thrown in the "bad" category, from here to eternity. #Game5NeverForget
I thought Baby would have something special in store for us tonight, this being Christmas and all. You know, something like this...
Turns out Spencer Hawes was the goofy Clipper reserve intent on delighting the internet tonight. Baby did get elbowed in the face pretty hard, and Doc appeared to say he was too fat to complain about it, but I'm stretching here. The Big Baby gif-streak has been broken.