Can these two teams possibly dislike each other even more than they already do? It certainly doesn’t seem possible. After a kerfuffle broke out in the second quarter between almost-teammates, the game really started to take off. Technical fouls were handed out, barking ensued, and the drama reached a fever pitch for those few moments. After that, the Los Angeles Clippers handled their business against a depleted Dallas Mavericks squad and cruised to a 104-88 victory. It wasn’t pretty early, especially from a pace and watchability standpoint, but the team is now 2-0 after two games against conference opponents.
|Los Angeles Clippers
Say what you want about the Hack-a-Whoever strategy. It might be aesthetically unappealing or not even the least bit exciting, but the strategy behind it is always something that gets debated. For a team that was struggling to keep up throughout some of this game, using that strategy late in the second quarter wasn’t exactly the worst thing in the world. It also helped Dallas trim a deficit in some fashion. It feels right to talk about that first simply because that’ll always be a thing with DeAndre Jordan and, now, Josh Smith. The team had to deal with it multiple times and came through on the other end relatively unscathed.
The second thing we need to talk about in this game is that DeAndre Jordan’s elbow upside Dirk Nowitzki’s head wasn’t exactly intentional. It was pretty inadvertent and just one of those things that happen when two guys are jostling for position down low. What Nowitzki did on the ensuing position was just a hard basketball play, as well. There was nothing dirty whatsoever about what either guy did, but the referees overreacted because, well, sports! Cooler heads eventually prevailed and nothing really came out of that except three technical fouls because the referees decided that someone had to have done something wrong.
As far as the actual game is concerned, as in the points and stuff, the Clippers were just coasting through most of it. Same with the Mavericks early on. Both teams were having trouble connecting on anything of note. A lot of that could have been due to both teams having to travel from a considerable distance after a game the night before. Plus, it’s still the beginning of the season and guys are trying to get their legs underneath them. The first quarter was ugly as they combined to shoot just 13-of-44. They started to pick it up in the second quarter, but neither side did much from beyond the arc during the opening 24 minutes.
The third quarter was a truly wild experience, though, as Blake Griffin absolutely took over the game and scored 13 of his game-high 26 points in that frame alone. He put the team on his back and delivered them as much as a 17-point lead. The bench then came in and held the lead throughout the rest of the game. The final quarter was nothing but a sloppy affair that saw the bench get as much as a 28-point lead at one point before chucking shot after shot mindlessly at the rim. The Mavericks made a run, I guess, and cut the lead down to 16 points which was the final margin of victory for the good guys.
As mentioned, Griffin was awesome. While he only shot 3-of-8 from outside the paint tonight, Griffin was able to use his superior athleticism and skill to ravage Dallas inside the paint; to the tune of 8-of-9, as a matter of fact. There are few things scarier to opposing defenses than Griffin charging hard down the lane and them having to watch him rise up for a thunderous jam. The man is no more. The machine has been born. Griffin also finished with 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. He’s gone 25-of-37 (67.6 percent) from the floor in the first two games and looks like a man among boys. It’s nuts.
The rest of the starters had their moments. DeAndre Jordan finished with just 6 points and endured the Hack-A-Blah, but he also totaled 15 rebounds in just 25:53 and blocked 4 shots. He rejected Dallas on the court like he rejected them off of it. J.J. Redick had 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting. It’s hard to say since it’s still early, but it does appear like his open looks are slightly decreasing this season. At least so far. Chris Paul didn’t have a great night, finishing with 9 points and 5 assists on 3-of-8 shooting, but he also played within himself and still delivered some classic CP3 moments – one of which was a reverse layup after a crazy dribble move and a three-pointer that helped push the lead up even higher.
The other starter, Lance Stephenson, only went 1-of-5 but that one was a made three. He had 3 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 20:53. The issue with Lance tonight was that he didn’t exactly play with any energy. Well, that’s not true. He had energy, but it was in all the wrong spots. He was standing around defensively, but then he would be slapping his hands on offense when a player he passed to didn’t shoot or if he wasn’t getting the ball as much as he thought he should. Look, there’s some things to like about Lance Stephenson. But this Lance Stephenson needs to stay away. The team has no use for the one that showed up tonight.
Tonight was a good night as far as the bench is concerned. Maybe not from an overall shooting front, but defensively they did good things and they gave the entire starting unit a break in the fourth quarter. That’s the kind of thing that keep this team successful and healthy throughout the course of the season. The starters need rest. Tonight, they got it. And the bench was partly why. Paul Pierce shot just 1-of-6, but he finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Josh Smith continues to struggle, going just 1-of-5 from the field, but he did have 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 assist. At the very least, Smith provides defense and shot blocking. The team lacked that off the bench from big men recently.
Wesley Johnson had 6 points on 3-of-7, but missed all four of his threes. He also had 7 rebounds and 1 block. Pablo Prigioni gunned four shots up in no time flat, but missed each one. Luc Mbah a Moute and Cole Aldrich also saw their first action of the season tonight. Aldrich finished with 2 points, which was setup by a nifty Prigioni pass, and Mbah a Moute had 1 assist. Side note: Aldrich has some nice passing skills. The work last year in New York in the Triangle Offense could be why, but he has some actual passing ability.
The real stories off the bench, though, were supplied by Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers. They were the only two holdovers from a bad bench last season, but played like two guys who knew their roles tonight. Crawford finished with 15 points, 13 of which were in the first half. Rivers, though, had 14 points and was everywhere defensively. It might be premature, but Austin could be this team’s best perimeter defender not named Chris Paul. He’s worked a lot on that end and it shows. The entire bench, despite bad shooting at times, did what they were brought here to do. They didn’t give up the lead despite struggles and defended their tails off. Major win tonight for them.
For Dallas, it’s not hard to see why they struggled a lot tonight. They were missing three key starters and played like a team desperate for any spark. John Jenkins finished with a team-high 17 points, Dirk Nowitzki had 10 of his 16 in a second quarter outburst, and J.J. Barea and Devin Harris each had 12 points. Beyond that, there wasn’t much else from a sheer firepower standpoint. Well, besides Dwight Powell (9 points). It seemed like he was doing good things whenever he was on the floor for them. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep that going in the future.
This was an injury riddled team with a lack of capable big men and no hope in this game once the Clippers started to get rolling. The end result of this game is not an indictment on their overall skill level or coaching acumen. Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the game today and that should go without saying, but sometimes you have to remind people. Had a few shots gone Dallas’ way earlier on, perhaps this game is a bit closer in the fourth quarter and we have a real game on our hands. Instead, we got what happened tonight. That’s a fighting bunch over there. Don’t be surprised if they knock off some really good teams this season and sneak their way into the playoffs.
The two teams played at a reasonably fast pace (102.06) and the Clippers finished up with an 85.8 Defensive Rating. Paul Pierce led the way in Net Rating at +36.6, with Josh Smith (+34.2) coming up right behind him. This team can defend, at least it seems they can right now. As good as they can defend, though, they still shouldn’t give up 51 uncontested shots to a team. That’s what they did tonight. Luckily, Dallas only made 33.3 percent (17) of those. The Clippers struggled, as well; making just 19-of-50 (38.0 percent) uncontested shots. It was one of those nights for both.
Up next for the Clippers are the Sacramento Kings once again. At least that game will be at home and also in the United States. See, the team is now 5-0 in the United States this season. Well, that is if you count preseason games. Either way, the team is 2-0 to start the campaign and has wins over conference opponents. As noted coming into this game, the first 9 games are against conference foes so getting these early wins is always good. Setting a tone early is never a bad thing.
Don’t sleep on the Kings, though. Word came down today that Willie Cauley-Stein is going to start tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Lakers. If he does well, then that will be someone the Clippers have to watch out for on Saturday night. A win is a win, even against a team struggling with injuries. Both teams were on a back-to-back, played like it, and the better team prevailed. Eyes forward. Now they have to focus on Sacramento. Just don’t get scared straight on Halloween, guys. Stay vigilant.