There were a ton of signs that this game was trouble. The Pelicans have been playing their best ball of the year, just coming off impressive wins against the Nets and Heat. They've been ravaged by the injury bug, but the guard injuries they just sustained to Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers might not have been bad things. We all know about Doc's son's historically bad rookie campaign, and our beloved EJ has been a net negative for the Pelicans this season. Tyreke Evans has been playing his best ball of the season and less guards means more ball control for him.. Not to mention seeing him and Jamal Crawford on the floor will always make me think he'll play like this regardless of how much declining he's done since his rookie campaign. Less guards also means more action for proven Clipper killer Anthony Morrow. Not to mention, they have some guy named Anthony Davis. Oh, and Darius Miller. Huh?
The Clippers never seemed in sync this entire game, and it was tearing up my heart. Chris Paul often got to spots but just couldn't make shots, and by game's end his confidence was completely down the toilet, botching a layup and picking up his dribble with Davis looming over him with 4 seconds left in the game. With their quarterback lacking, and the omnipresent Davis draped all over Blake Griffin, the Pelicans cut the heads off the Clipper snake and let the rest of the team see what they could do.
And it was nearly enough. Crawford finally regained his mojo and was the only reason the Clippers were in this game on the offensive end. Matt Barnes hit some very timely shots (and got a very untimely technical foul down the stretch) that also kept the Clippers within distance. Darren Collison also chipped in some.. But you know what all those players have in common? Shooters shooters shooters.
The Clips took a staggering 30 three point shots, and hit them at a great clip, nailing 13. They got 7 threes from Crawford, and 32 points altogether from him. That's all nice and dandy, but they took more shots from downtown than they took in the paint. Credit New Orleans, they're long as hell (and looked even longer when DeAndre Jordan got into early foul problems in the first half) and they gave the Clippers jump shots and took away lanes to the hoop, and the Clips settled. And settled. And settled. So yet another game ends with a missed Crawford heave on the road. There's no time to dwell on this loss, as the Clippers have the Mavericks tomorrow night.. And just like the Pelicans before tonight, they'll be looking to beat this team for the first time all season. But unlike the Pelicans, they'll have a lot more on the line. The Clippers are going to need to bring their A game or they could find themselves back in the 4th seed by the end of their game in Houston.
A few things:
-Many of you might remember Morrow. I'm absolutely terrified of him whenever the Clippers play him. He's a flat out scorer, one of those sky high confidence guys that can bury you on any given night. He struck again tonight, with 27 points on 17 shots.
-You don't remember Darius Miller. I don't blame you, not many people do. But man the Pellies should send a Thank You card to Gordon and Rivers for missing this game, because this guy came out to ball. There were numerous possessions that looked like they were going nowhere and Miller bailed the Pelicans out. He hit the Pelicans' last 2 shots of the game, the first being a 3 pointer, and both shots put New Orleans up 5. In a game where he played some point out of pure necessity (he's listed as a 6'8 small forward), he was huge, and the difference down the stretch.
-I'm not angry at Craw. He took a few tough shots, but really, we weren't getting many better looks. And he was feeling it a good majority of the game. The corner three he took that could've tied the game late was fine by me. It was nice to finally see some swagger back with JCrossover.
-The bench still has huge issues, and Doc is going to have to start shortening the rotation a bit to see how he's going to handle things come playoff time. In a one point game to start the 4th quarter, I'm sure I wasn't the only one that wasn't surprised to see the lead balloon to 7 points that quickly. The length is a huge issue on the glass, as the Clippers were outrebounded 53-40 tonight, but these are the players this team has, and it's going to take a collective effort.
-Alexis Ajinca went off again for 14 and 11, but you can't even call him the scrub turned star that the Clippers often see.. He's torched the Clippers all season and is the manifestation of what length will do against our second unit. This dude came into this game thinking he was going to have a big game. And he did. Alexis Ajinca. Even Al-Farouq Aminu, old knucklehead who doesn't really know the game of basketball but has a great head for the glass, had a really nice game on paper. 8 points, 10 boards, and 6 assists, yeesh.
-Paul and Griffin were subpar today.. Honestly Griffin has problems against length and Davis is as long as they come, he's not going to have an easy time going up against The Brow. He hasn't really had a good game against the Pelicans, and I half-expected his 20 point streak to end tonight, which it nearly did.. But Paul, just sucked. He mentioned his confidence issues not too long ago, and he got where he wanted against a bunch of guards that just didn't know how to guard him.. And he turned in one of his worst games ever. Wow. I know CP3 had some nice shooting games these last few out, but he's been hesitant a lot of the time since he's been back for injury. Can't believe I'm saying this, but he really really needs to figure things out. This is probably Griffin's team now, but Paul is still going to make everything go down the stretch of games.
-Evans and Davis shot pretty badly tonight, but Evans got into the lane often and got teammates involved, and Davis is Davis.. Anthony Davis, like we all know, is just going to be a very special player. His guard skills are obvious, he's got great touch inside and out, he's LONG LONG LONG and it's impossible not to look over your shoulder if you're a guard driving in the lane against him, he's an absolute joy to watch. Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday will help this team a lot and I anticipate them being in the playoffs next year. It's too bad they're so shackled by bad contracts and can only hope Davis's growth gets them where they need to be so they can lock him up forever.