Winners of six in a row, and eight of their last nine, the Los Angeles Clippers took the floor Saturday night looking to keep their good results rolling along. Opposite them were the New Orleans Pelicans, led by phenom Anthony Davis. New Orleans came in on a bit of a cold streak after losing four of their previous five games. In a game that featured the rising wunderkind, it was the trustworthy superstars that took over when things looked in doubt.
If something works well, there's no use ever changing it. Lo and behold, the Clippers started off tonight's game using a set we've seen them go to time and time again in the beginning of games. J.J. Redick ran around two baseline screens and nailed the opening shot of the game; a three. It was a sign of things to come for both him and the Clippers on this night. The Clippers started out extremely well in the first quarter, nailing shot after shot and getting their offensive big three -- Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, and Blake Griffin -- involved early and often.
DeAndre Jordan had a huge play midway through the opening frame where he blocked Tyreke Evans and ignited a Blake Griffin fast break that led to two free throws. Later in the frame, Chris Paul hit an utterly ridiculous shot with shot-clock winding down to push the Clippers ahead by 11. And then Jamal Crawford, two possessions later, hit a mid-range jumper over Anthony Davis to put the Clippers up by 13. As if that weren't enough, the squad capped off a brilliant opening stanza in style when Redick ice-colded a three to end the quarter and put the Clippers ahead 34-18.
Only four Clippers players scored in the first quarter. And until Jamal Crawford's baseline jumper over Anthony Davis, it was only three players. Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, and Blake Griffin combined for 32 of the team's 34 first quarter points. They combined to shoot 12-for-19 overall and 5-for-7 from three. It was truly a great offensive quarter for the team with terrific ball movement and control by all parties. While Paul himself had 5 assists, Griffin had 4 in the quarter. As great as that first quarter was, though, the second quarter was vastly different.
The Pelicans used a 16-9 run to start the quarter against the Clippers bench. Because of the injuries to Jordan Farmar and Reggie Bullock tonight, the Clippers ended up using a makeshift bench lineup that didn't really pay any dividends - except for the other team. The lineup of Cunningham-Crawford-Turkoglu-Davis-Hawes was outscored by 9 points during their 5:35 of time on the floor. By the time the starters came back in, the Pelicans had started to figure out their offense and kept it humming along before Matt Barnes hit a corner three with 3:40 to go in the quarter to put the Clippers back up by seven.
With the Clippers up by five with just over three minutes to go, Blake Griffin put in an and-one dunk against Anthony Davis and then followed that up one possession later with a left-handed jam out of the pick-and-roll to put the Clippers up by six with 2:30 to go. But New Orleans would answer back with an 8-2 run over the final 150 seconds of the first half, capped off by Luke Babbitt hitting a corner three to tie it up at 54 apiece.
In the third quarter, New Orleans started off well by getting an easy basket for Omer Asik on a hook shot over DeAndre Jordan just 17 seconds into the second half. After that, though, the Clippers seemed to settle down and run their offense like they did in the first quarter. It started off by getting a dunk from DeAndre Jordan after a feed by Blake Griffin. After a stop, Blake Griffin got the ball and drove right at Anthony Davis to draw the foul. He sank both free throws and the Clippers never trailed or were tied after that.
The real man of mystery in the quarter was Matt Barnes, who went 3-for-4 from three and totaled 9 points. He hit the shots he had to hit in order to help the team sustain its run during the frame. Chris Paul also chipped in with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists in the quarter alone. And Blake Griffin manhandled both Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. It didn't matter who was on him. Griffin attempted eight free throws in the quarter en route to a 13-point frame. The Clippers, thanks in large part to their 70.6 percent shooting in the quarter and 6-for-8 from deep, held a 15-point lead going to the fourth.
It was as if Doc Rivers noticed that the bench didn't do that hot of a job in the second quarter because instead of starting the fourth quarter with a hockey substitution, he opted to mix some of the starters with some of the bench in order to put New Orleans away for good. And they did. The lineup of Crawford-Redick-Barnes-Hawes-Jordan outscored the Pelicans by eight points in their 8:42 on the floor together. It was primarily highlighted by Jamal Crawford scoring 11 points on 7 shots and also Redick going up-and-under against Anthony Davis that got owner Steve Ballmer excited. The rest of the guys off the bench inevitably came in and finished off the Pelicans, winning the quarter by five and the game by 20. First round pick C.J. Wilcox came in and even nailed his second career three, a game after nailing his first career three. It's nice to see him get some playing time towards the end of games when the result isn't in doubt.
1.) What more could you ask from from the Wake and Blake duo tonight? Chris Paul not only chipped in with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 16 assists but he managed to do it while committing just two turnovers and shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. He's enjoying the best shooting season of his career and, while he will regress, it's nice to see happen on a nightly basis. He had perfect control of the tempo and dictated a marvelous game tonight. Truly was a beauty to behold.
2.) The other side of the equation poured in 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists on 10-for-15 from the field and 10-for-15 from the free throw line. Blake Griffin used his size, strength, and speed to bully Anthony Davis in one-on-one matchups all night and really taught Davis a lesson or two. When the Clippers two superstars are playing like this, they're tough to beat and tonight was no exception.
3.) There's so much made these days about teams having a "Big Three" and those three being dominant on a near night-in and night-out basis. Tonight, the Clippers got their own version of a Big Three but in a different way. J.J. Redick was 8-for-14 overall but went 5-for-9 from deep and finished with 21 points. The other side of the Big Three coin, DeAndre Jordan, only had 8 points but he did haul in 18 rebounds, block 5 shots, and even dished out 2 assists. These two combined to form their own third wheel tonight on each side of the court. Redick with the scoring and Jordan with the defense.
4.) Matt Barnes stepped up tonight when the team needed him, hitting crucial threes. He only made five shots tonight but four were from three and he defensively harassed Tyreke Evans into a 5-for-13 performance. Tyreke has his own issues but this might have been Barnes' best game of the season. In their pursuit for a starting small forward, it looks like the Clippers are finally getting good play out of one and Matt Barnes has left his mark on the position.
5.) Jamal Crawford saved himself for the end mostly and closed the show in dazzling style with his fourth quarter performance. He's playing more and more under control lately and it seems like the trust factor that the team is trying to achieve is slowly being felt through his play. In almost no time flat, he finished with 20 points and 4 assists and gave the Clippers the much needed punch off the bench tonight. Kudos to him for his play.
6.) Anthony Davis had 26 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block tonight but did not record a single assist or steal and generally was sort of forgotten about for vast stretches of this game. He scored 10 of his 26 in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided but ultimately had little overall offensive impact on this game. The rebounding is a big deal as it was a season low for him. However, it speaks volumes to what kind of player he can become when he gets 26 points in a game, 16 before the fourth quarter, and it's thought of as "quiet", so to speak.
7.) The Pelicans are just a jumbled mess of talent. Square pegs into round holes, I guess you'd say. Besides Anthony Davis, the only other redeeming quality players they have are probably Omer Asik and Ryan Anderson in their own different ways. Jrue Holiday is a solid point guard but Tyreke Evans isn't helpful and their bench, sans the aforementioned Anderson, is just poor. Even Eric Gordon, out with an injury, is subpar and the entire team is faltering. Monty Williams is trying his best but the writing might be on the wall for him sooner or later if the team doesn't start performing better.
8.) Los Angeles lost the rebound battle tonight, 45-38, but that doesn't tell the full story since the Clippers were outrebounded 17-3 by the Pelicans in the second quarter that ultimately saw New Orleans pull even with them at halftime. Pelicans had 17 second chance points tonight but 7 came in the second quarter. Ten over the other three quarters isn't bad.
9.) Also, while New Orleans did shoot 47.5 percent from the field tonight, that figure is also greatly inflated due to their 73.7 percent shooting in the second quarter. In the other three quarters, the Clippers held the Pelicans to 24-for-61 (39.3 percent) shooting and 3-for-17 from beyond the arc. The Clippers rotated well on defense tonight and communicated. The trust must be building after the last few performances.
10.) Ralph Lawler missed tonight's game but I really liked the job that Brian Siemen did in his stead. Siemen is probably the heir to Ralph's throne - err, microphone -- and that's a good thing. While I missed Ralph tonight, Brian did a more than admirable job and I look forward to seeing and hearing him on the telecasts in the future.
The Clippers played a decent opponent tonight and did what you're supposed to do to a struggling decent opponent. They started off hot and finished strong. While the lackluster second quarter can be held against them because of the bench, it still needs to be mentioned that the Clippers played a great game tonight. All of the starters delivered an A+ performance and showed what this team is capable of when they're firing on all cylinders. Up next on Monday is the Phoenix Suns who are coming off of a failed comeback attempt against the Houston Rockets in Houston tonight. They're 12-9 and the Clippers dispatched of them easily a couple of weeks ago. However, the Suns were coming in on a back-to-back that night and they won't be this time. It'll be interesting to see if Isaiah Thomas is back in time or not.
Either way, the Clippers are rolling along and playing better than they were through the first few weeks of the season. Ultimately, they're playing like the team that we all thought they were. Yes, they're not playing great competition right now but they're winning the games that they're supposed to be winning and that's what matters at this juncture. Staying right there in pack with everyone else and then surging ahead when the time is right. They have a favorable schedule through the end of the month so there's no telling how long they keep this up. One thing is for certain, though. The Los Angeles Clippers have woken up.
Clippers are now 10-0 when J.J. Redick scores 20+ points. They're 24-4 when he scores 15+ points.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) December 7, 2014