It's that time again... actually it's the second week, in which I will break down the week that was in the world that is the Los Angeles Clippers. Every week there will be synopsis of each game, along with other notable moments in the NBA which affect the Clips.
Did the Clippership sink or sail? It's time to find out.
Heading into the week, The Clippers were 44-20, 1st in the Pacific Division and 4th in the Western Conference. They were 3-0 in their previous week and riding a seven games winning streak.
Last week's matchups were: Monday vs. PHX, Wednesday vs. GSW, Friday at Utah, and Sunday vs. Cleveland.
Monday: The Phoenix Suns arrived to play the streaking Clippers at Staples; the second of two meetings within the week. The Suns had been staggering a bit in the Western Conference playoff race, and the Clips had been "Marching into March," which is why this game had it all!
To say Blake Griffin's performance to open the game was phenomenal is an understatement as he scored 22 of the Clips 34 points in the first quarter. He continued his dominance by showcasing his game on all levels, in transition with homage to a Karl Malone dunk, his jumper sometimes off the glass, all while facing double and even triple teams.
The game seemed to be all Clips; Darren Collison poured in points filling the void of absent Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick. One of the most impressive players was Danny Granger scoring 14 points, hitting threes, while also pestering the Suns with his length on defense. Granger has plunged into the Clippers system with only one practice up to this point as a new member of the team.
In fourth quarter when it seemed that the Clips had the game in hand Blake Griffin managed to get tangled up with P.J. Tucker for the "Scrum at Staples." In the melee, Tucker threw a blow at Griffin, and the Suns forward was ejected from the game.
Phoenix used the ejection to their advantage, holding the Clippers scoreless for five and half minutes, trimming a large deficit to four points. During the drought Griffin fouled out after scoring 37 points, and it was then that Chris Paul answered the call. Paul hit a clutch bank shot giving the Clips some breathing room, adding to his final line of 17 points and 11 assists, helping the Clips to a 112-105 win, and a season high of eight straight victories!
Clipper of the Game: Who else but Blake Griffin? His dominant first quarter helped spark the Clippers; they finished with 37 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Runner Up: Despite wanting to put Danny Granger in this spot, Chris Paul proved why he is the league's best point guard and one of the best closers in business by posting 17 points and 11 assists -- not to mention getting the Suns' Goran Dragic in foul trouble early, which took the shine out of the Suns.
Tuesday: As Doc has been doing of late, he chose to give the Clips the day off of practice following a game. Wednesday will be the Clips' next game versus the rival/hated Warriors, the final of four meetings this season. A win will give the Clips more of a cushion in the Pacific Division and also even the season series between the two teams.
In other Clipper related news, P.J. Tucker of the Suns has been suspended one game without pay for his elbow to Blake Griffin's head. Not a huge shocker since it was a nasty debacle at the time.
Around the league, Houston invaded Oklahoma City, a matchup that featured Patrick Beverly and Russell Westbrook reunited for the first time since Beverly injured Westy in the playoffs last season. OKC was victorious, giving the Clips more padding in the three spot, though a Thunder loss would have closed the gap on two. Too bad they both couldn't lose.
Wednesday: With a lack of rivalries in the NBA, the Clippers seem to have two brewing ones that have intensified in the past two seasons; the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors. Golden State is a team that got the best of the Clips in the regular season last year, and for the most part, there has been no love lost between the two teams this season as well. The term "grudge match" would describe how these two teams feel for one another.
So far the in their matchups, the Clips defeated the Dubs in the second game of the season with a flawless performance from Chris Paul, then Golden State targeted Blake Griffin on Christmas Day leading to his ejection, and the Warriors stealing the game. During the third matchup, The Clips played without an injured Paul, and got blown out of the Oracle Arena.
Staples Center was the setting for the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Warriors and Clips, a potential first round matchup with Golden State coming off a back to back, and on a five game winning streak of their own. Steph Curry, who has been the league's wonder boy over the past season, was battling a quad injury limiting him to a 30 minute restriction, while for their part the Clips still had no J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford.
Back and forth was the movement of the first half of the game; one team would make a push the other would respond. The Warriors were able to exploit Klay Thompson's height advantage against Darren Collison, and for the Clips it was Blake Griffin and his customary brash calling card; he managed to get under the skin of Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O'Neal, while exerting his assertiveness on offense.
For the better part of the year, the bench seemed like one of the Clips' soft spots, but now, ‘the times they are a changin'. Newly acquired forward Danny Granger substantiated his potential for the Clippers as he left the bench and hit his first six shots! Granger was also pesky on defense with his length, while he gobbled up some boards. Meanwhile Willie Green pumped in clutch shots too.
At the half, the Clippers trailed by two in a game that felt more lopsided than the score displayed. But at the end of the third quarter the Clips closed on a 15-3 run to build a nice cushion heading into the fourth. Chris Paul's shots were off on the night, ending 5-15, yet still flirted with a triple double, and hit a clutch three pointer to end the quarter.
Momentum followed the Clippers into the fourth quarter, as Danny Granger missed a three but Blake Griffin followed the shot with a powerful exclamation dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy! In the end, the Clips were able to bottle the limited Steph Curry, and counter the Warriors; they won the game 111-98, tied the season series, and sent a message!
Intrigue also followed this rivalry into the post game on two fronts. Unhappy with his shooting performance despite having a good all around game, Chris Paul was working on his game with Lil' Chris shagging balls. Chris had done this in the past in New Orleans. This time, was he doing this for his game or because ESPN was there filming for a feature? Odds are, Chris was truly working on his game and aware of the opportunity that this team has to legitimately contend for a title!
Between the locker room and heading to the pressroom to talk to the media, Blake Griffin was photographed with Reggie Bush. Lurking in the background was Jermaine O'Neal, waiting for Blake. O'Neal confronted Griffin, the two were separated by Clipper's PR, Blake told him to keep it on the court, and the two ‘made nice', at the end of their interaction with a handshake. Blake won the battle; and proved to be the bigger man than the thug O"Neal. This is just another subplot in the ongoing rivalry between the two teams.
Clipper of the Game: There might not be a more signatory game that defines the current state of Blake Griffin. His stat sheet showed 30 points and 15 boards and his dominance in the game with the Warriors. Not to mention, he didn't allow them to play mind games during the game or with O'Neal afterwards.
Runner Up: Additional time for Danny Granger has increased his productivity! Granger hit some key shots, put the ball on the floor, and finished with 18 points and six rebounds. If J.J. Redick does not return from the back injury, Granger will play an even bigger role for the Clips; one that no one envisioned at the time of the trade deadline.
In the standings, the Clips distanced themselves in the Pacific with the win over the Warriors, while Portland continued with their struggles, losing their fourth straight game to the Spurs. Now, the Clips have a game lead over Houston for the three seed out West, while the Blazers will most likely have to battle the Warriors for the five seed.
Thursday: Another off day, no practice for the Clips as they travel to Utah to take on the Jazz. The Clips are riding high on their season-high nine game winning streak. Friday night they will play a humble Jazz team, which is in the midst of jockeying for lottery position in the draft. On paper this seems to be a mismatch, but in the NBA, nothing is certain! It is important for the Clips not to take them lightly, if they lose this game it would be a jolt.
Houston decided to help the Clippers out in the standing with a lackluster effort in Chicago. From the start, Chicago's defense proved to derail the Rockets' offense, dropping them 111-88. Now the Clips own a game and half lead on the Rockets for the number three seed in the West. With the Clippers playing at Utah and Cleveland on Sunday and the Rockets in Miami on Sunday, chances increase to distance themselves. Let's not forget the Clips already own the tiebreaker with the Rockets as well, and have one more matchup in Houston.
Friday: Ah, when faced with a time when you don't have your "A' game, it is possible to grind through it, and come out on top. The Clippers are living proof with their trip to Utah to play the young and ‘down and out' Jazz, a team they can't always rattle.
When most thought a continued streak would be an easy mission for the Clips, the Jazz had different plans and jumped on them early. Trey Burke displayed why he will be on the All-Rookie team; he was on the offensive helping the team to an 11 point lead after one quarter of play.
Despite the fact that the Clips looked out of sorts on both sides of the ball, they were able to trim the lead to two in the second quarter, but the Jazz answered the bell, and pushed the lead back up. At the half it felt like the Clips were down by 20, rather than just eight, by not playing their brand of basketball.
Chris Paul seemed to be a man ready to battle in the third period, and helped the team wake up. The defensive intensity stepped up tuning out the Jazz attack. Willie Green did a fine job with his shooting, which gave the team spark.
OUCH! An awkward landing after a layup, late in the third quarter, took Paul out of the game. He went to the locker room with a tweaked ankle while the team, with help of Blake Griffin stayed the course on 20-2 run, claiming the lead. Down the stretch, Paul took over and nailed clutch shots; he finished the night with 18 points, eight assists, and seven boards. Blake Griffin notched another 20 point effort displaying his outside touch to put the game out of reach.
It was not the smooth sound of Jazz that the Clips hoped for; it has actually been an annoying beat all year that has driven them nuts! Like other times, the Clips found a way, using strong second half defense and capturing the game 96-87. Things were not easy as the team was held to their lowest point total since January and even though it didn't look pretty the streak continues to 10 games.
Clipper of the Game: "The Point God" Chris Paul displayed his brilliance in the second half with his shooting touch. Bouncing back from the injury, he helped lead the team over the hump. Vintage Paul came to the scene to take care of business like only he knows how.
Runner Up: Blake didn't leave his imprint that has been typical. Composure was the key that helped Griffin to put his stake in the game. But, was he shy at the end?
In the standings on Friday night, the Warriors blew a lead in Oakland to the Cavs, while the Blazers won in New Orleans despite a career high for Anthony Davis. Cleveland had a nice win against Golden State and will head to play the Clips on Sunday.
Saturday: Another day off for the Clips -- no practice. Nothing really played a role in the Clippers' battle in the standings. Happy Birthday to Blake Griffin, who turns 25 on Sunday and Reggie Bullock will be 23 years old.
Sunday: A lot went down in the NBA on Sunday, including the Clips playing a Cleveland team that beat them earlier in the year. This is a different Cavs team with no Bynum, yet Spencer Hawes was added before the deadline. It looked like a team that could potentially end the Clips' 10-game winning streak.
From the get go, the Clips put the pedal to metal; and the Cavs were in the rear view mirror!! All Star MVP Kyrie Irving suffered a bicep injury that put him out of the game late in the first quarter.
It was CP, Blake, and Deandre that hit the Cavs hard. All three finished with double doubles, killing the Cavs. They found themselves with a nice 14 point lead at the half. Without Kyrie, the Cavs were in trouble.
Bench-wise, Reggie Bullock had a career high 14 points, and played mega minutes since Darren Collison was out with the flu. The birthday boy delivered with two threes and five of nine shooting on the night. Danny Granger bounced back from his scoreless performance the other night with 11 points; he chipped in with two threes.
In the fourth quarter, the Cavs went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to seven led by Jarret Jack, but the Clips answered the call with Paul and Griffin. In the end, the Clips won 102-80, extending their winning streak to 11 games.
Clipper of the Game: Chris Paul didn't do much in regards to points until the fourth quarter; and then finished with 15 points and 11 assists. The highly anticipated matchup with Kyrie was cut short due to Irving's injury.
Runner Up: Reggie Bullock could have owned this honor, but it was the other birthday boy, Blake with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. He does it in all facets of his game, transition, jump shooting, and passing.
Now with the help of the Mavs, the Clips are one game behind OKC for the two seed. The Heat also took out the Rockets, which gave the Clippers a three game lead in the third position in the West.
Clipper of the Week: Each week Blake Griffin could easily get this honor but this week it goes to Chris Paul. This was arguably the first week since Paul returned from the shoulder injury where he looked like typical CP on all levels! Good going!
Paul played like his bad self against the Jazz when the Clips were down. Granted, this team does look more like Blake's squad, but there remains no question that CP3 is the best point guard in the NBA; not to mention able to take over the game when he needs to. In the long haul, we will look back at this week and realize everything from Paul was positive, which will pay dividends when playoff time rolls around.
Sink or Sail? SAIL! 11 straight games, need I say more? The team saw Chris Paul return as the dominator, and Blake continue on his torrid pace. Balance is also a significant factor, without Crawford and Redick -- Danny Granger, Willie Green, and Reggie Bullock have stabilized the bench.
Now safely in the third seed in the West, a team that has won 11 straight still has the potential to improve. One game behind the Thunder with a favorable week ahead, this streak will either flail out in Denver on Monday night or possibly get to 15 before heading into Dallas on their five game roadie at the end of the month. It is that simple, after a loss in Denver, to Randy Foye's three pointer in early February, this will be a back to back to continue the streak. Regardless of a win or loss, the Clipper ship continues to sail the Pacific into heavy waters, as a true Western Conference contender.