Let's say this game was both an actual victory and a moral victory (of sorts). This contest against the Detroit Pistons was never going to be easy. Pistons center Andre Drummond is averaging nearly 20 points and 20 rebounds (he nearly reached these numbers today), and Detroit's roster features other talented players like Reggie Jackson. Drummond is big and athletic, and he matches up well with DeAndre Jordan. They will almost certainly be a playoff team in the East. With starting guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick held out again, this game initially looked like it could easily devolve into a repeat of the clobbering they received at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. However, the Clippers dug in and pulled out a gutsy win despite missing two of their best players.
Doc Rivers shook up the starting lineup, choosing to designate Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford the guards and make Paul Pierce the small forward. Lance Stephenson came off the bench for the first time this season. The game got off to a hot start for Detroit, as every three-point shot they attempted seemed to swish through the net. While the Clippers did make several runs, their defense was shaky throughout the first half. They allowed Detroit to score 60 points in 24 minutes, and Los Angeles was lucky to be down only 9 at intermission. Blake Griffin and Jordan both played well, but their efforts were not enough to overcome Andre Drummond and the hot-shooting Pistons. Detroit looked like a well-oiled machine in the first two quarters.
The tide turned in the Clippers' favor in the third quarter. Jamal Crawford had a vintage Jamal Crawford game, and he and Griffin systematically picked Detroit apart. With those two leading the way, the Clippers scored 30 points in the quarter. The Clippers also showed that they could lock down their defense, and they held Detroit to 20 points in the frame. However, Doc Rivers made an interesting choice in this quarter by deploying the "Hack-a-Drummond" while maintaining a slim lead. The merits of this move, which he repeated in the fourth quarter, will be endlessly debated, but it seems odd to do that when Jordan plays for Los Angeles. Jordan shoots 35% from the line, while Drummond shoots just over 39% from there. Whether this was a good or bad idea, the Clippers led by one going into the fourth quarter after going on a 12-2 run.
The fourth quarter was just ugly. The first field goal came almost halfway through the frame, and it seemed as if they game was tied at 81 for ages. Both teams played solid defense, but both were sluggish offensively. After the muck of the first six minutes, Griffin and Crawford got the Clippers moving again on the offensive end, and they forced Drummond to the bench with "Hack-a-Drummond." It was not always pretty, but the Clippers managed to pull out the victory. Crawford has had a rough year, but he was stellar with 37 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. Griffin finished with 34 points (14 of 25), 9 points, and 8 rebounds.
Three side notes:
An unsung hero of the fourth quarter (and the game) is Austin Rivers. Rivers hit some timely three-point buckets, and he played very good defense on Detroit's guards.
Lance Stephenson played just two minutes. Is this an isolated incident, or is Doc souring on him? This remains to be seen.
Luc Mbah a Moute is a steadying presence. His stats do not look like much perhaps, but he is a good influence on defense and makes quality hustle plays.