As Thanksgiving enters our lives once again tomorrow, the only thing the Los Angeles Clippers can truly be thankful for this season is that Blake Griffin actually plays for them. That’s it. Nothing else. The team got their doors blown off in the second half by the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night simply because only one man showed up for a vast duration of the game. You can’t win games with one guy being the only one to give a damn. Utah used a balanced attack that was deadly from all areas, and they won the game by the final score of 102-91. Let’s dive into this mess.
|Los Angeles Clippers||23||22||23||23||91|
Give credit to the Utah Jazz tonight. Seriously. Go over to SLC Dunk and tell them what a damn good team that they have on their hands. They are. That’s a good team over there. They play hard for 48 minutes, defend you like a battalion of T-1000 Terminators, and make you wish you forgot to set your alarm that morning. Tonight, as good as Utah was, this game had a lot to do with what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Clippers. Only one guy – Blake Griffin – showed up throughout the entire game. Griffin finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks on 18-of-23 shooting. He defended tough, boxed out really well, and competed for every second of his 38:41 of game action. And then there was everyone else.
There doesn’t even really need to be a full-on discussion about how the game flowed or anything like that. The first half was a relatively even affair with the Clippers getting highlight plays on one end and the Jazz just grinding possessions away on the other end. We were tied at halftime. That shouldn’t have shocked anyone. The third quarter, though, shocked quite a bit since Raul Neto of all people decided to go 4-of-4 from the field and chip in 10 points. That was a big deal. It turned the tide of the game. Griffin desperately tried to keep the Clippers afloat, but they trailed by five going to the final quarter.
In the fourth, Gordon Hayward torched the Clippers for 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting as no one could stop him from doing whatever he wanted. The team trailed by 9 points after just two minutes in the fourth quarter. That’s not good. Then Doc Rivers called a timeout. And then Doc Rivers didn’t make a change. And then Utah extended it to 12 points after a clear path foul. After that, Hayward took over and the team never got closer than down by 9 points with 6:22 to go. Utah cruised to the finish line on the back of Hayward and everyone else while the Clippers were left physically, mentally, and emotionally beaten. This isn’t a bad loss. It was on the second night of a back-to-back against a good team that defends like a pack of banshees. But, hey, at least they get to eat turkey tomorrow!
It’s unclear if anyone else on the team even deserves mention for their play tonight. Sure, Chris Paul finished with 24 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals on 10-of-15 shooting, but a lot of his damage was done in the fourth quarter of a lost game. DeAndre Jordan had 8 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks, but he didn’t impact the game nearly enough outside of a couple alley-oops and the blocks. He was trying, though. Paul and Jordan tried. Not up to Griffin’s level of trying, but they at least tried. Everyone else was a tire fire. And that’s being polite.
For starters, the shooting guards and small forwards for the Clippers shot a combined 2-of-20 in this game. Yes, you are reading that correctly. Wesley Johnson went scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting, J.J. Redick had 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting, Jamal Crawford had 3 points on 1-of-9 shooting, Paul Pierce went scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting, and Lance Stephenson went scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting. Add that all up and you get 6 points on 20 shots. You’re not going to win any game getting that level of non-contribution from five players that you need something positive from. Be ashamed, be angry, be whatever. Be something. At least do that.
The only bench players who showed any pulse tonight were Austin Rivers and Josh Smith. Smith contributed 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, but also had an assist and a block. Unfortunately, he somehow managed to not grab one single rebound in 16:40. Fun. Maybe it’s time to stop playing him at the center spot without Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan in the game. Rivers had 3 points on 1-of-3 shooting, but did have 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. He tried out there. He gave it a go defensively against Gordon Hayward, and at least did an admirable job against a bigger player. Unfortunately, that’s not enough when you can’t play him at small forward. Rivers and Smith had their moments, but not much else.
For Utah, they got 33 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals out of Gordon Hayward on 11-of-22 shooting. As if that shooting line weren’t enough, Hayward went 5-of-7 from three. As mentioned earlier, he had 14 of his 33 in the fourth quarter. He was sensational tonight. Hayward has struggled quite a bit to start the season, but tonight that was not the case. He hit tough shots, got where he wanted to get on the floor, knocked down huge threes, and snatched the life out of Los Angeles. Simply put, he was the man tonight for them. He and Griffin, by far, were the two best players in this game.
Utah’s second-leading scorer tonight was Derrick Favors. He finished with 22 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals on 10-of-15 shooting. While Griffin got the best of him, Favors did just enough to help his team – including a 10-point third quarter that paired nicely with Neto’s outburst. His front court mate Rudy Gobert had 10 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 1 assist on 4-of-4 shooting. Gobert got broken by Chris Paul in the first half, but rebounded to be a huge difference maker in the second half. He snuffed out a lot of what the Clippers wanted to do by just being so damn great defensively.
To round out their starters, Rodney Hood had 13 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting. He had his moments of dazzling play, and that’s what he does. Sometimes you forget he’s there, but then he just sneaks up and bites you in the rear end with an all-around stat line. Utah stole him in the draft, and now he’s out there helping steal games for them. Raul Neto had 10 points, all in the third quarter, and 6 assists, as well as 3 steals. Outside of that outburst in the third, he didn’t do much. But that one little run made all the difference.
Their bench wasn’t even good tonight, if we’re being honest. They shot a combined 6-of-24 from the field, but got 8 points and 6 rebounds from Alec Burks. Unfortunately for Burks, DeAndre Jordan swatted him viciously on two separate occasions. Still, Burks gets to walk out of STAPLES Center with a win while Jordan has to eat the loss with the rest of the Clippers. The bench wasn’t good for Utah, but they still defended adequately enough to not be such a huge negative all-around for the team. At the end of the day, that stuff matters.
We got a Utah Jazz style of pace tonight. The pace was calculated at 92.24, which means this was right in Utah’s wheelhouse. You can’t let an opposing team, even if you’re on the second night of a back-to-back, dictate how you play in your own building. That can’t happen. That’s a slap in the face. The team did get outrebounded again, 39-35, but they matched Utah’s production on the offensive glass with 11 rebounds apiece. However, Utah converted those 11 into 23 second chance points, which outscored the Clippers by 12 in that department. That’s troubling.
Maybe tired legs affected the entire team, but they didn’t affect Blake Griffin or Chris Paul. The duo went 13-of-19 on uncontested shots. The rest of the team went 3-of-15. So, that’s fun. Doc Rivers went back to that duo of Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce tonight. He played them 8 minutes. In those 8 minutes, they had a Net Rating of -47.5. So, yayyyyyyy. The 12 three-point attempts are not only a season-low for the Clippers, but it’s their lowest output since November 8, 2014 when they also had 12 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Got to shoot more threes, but got to make sure they’re quality looks.
Now, the team just needs to figure out what the hell is going on. They’re 7-8, Thanksgiving is here, and they have to play the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at STAPLES Center. This is the part of the schedule this team has to absolutely own. They can’t come out of this stretch without looking good, otherwise they’re just another team in the pack. The Pelicans are no pushovers, though. Since starting the season 1-11, they’ve since rattled off three straight wins, including a win against the San Antonio Spurs. If the Clippers want to really do something, they need to come out on Friday looking like they care about something other than clocking in and clocking out. Can’t keep trading wins and losses. It won’t work. Have a pleasant Thanksgiving everyone, and stay safe out there.