U-G-L-Y. You ain’t got no alibi, you ugly! Hey! You ugly! They don’t make many games like the one that was played tonight. Then again, it should be of no surprise that a game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies turned into a repulsive display of basketball. These two teams struggle to play beautiful basketball against one another. Sometimes a game turns into a semi-blowout. Other times, like tonight, it turns into a quest to see which team can stop retching long enough in order to pull out a victory. This game was like the scene in the new Bond film, Spectre, where the villain is – oh, there should be a spoiler alert here. Anyways, it was painful! But, hey, at least it was a win. That always makes something ugly look prettier.
|Los Angeles Clippers||25||21||24||24||94|
This game featured a slew of horrific possessions by each team that either resulted in turnovers or terrible shots heaved towards the rim with the accuracy of a paper airplane in a hurricane. The fact these two teams even are allowed to play in the same association as others is quite the mysterious thing to ponder right now. We need to start from the beginning, though, because there was so much that happened and there’s so little time to get through it all.
Our loveable Los Angeles team came out of the gates in the first quarter pretty horribly. They trailed by as much as 6 points prior to Jamal Crawford getting fouled on a three-point attempt and sinking all three free throws. The quarter ended with the team going on a 7-2 run to close the gap to a single tally. The second quarter was a lot more easy going for the first half of it as the Clippers surged ahead by 6 points after Chris Paul knocked down a trey. However, that lead would not last as Memphis took a 2-point lead into the closing seconds. And then Crawford went to the line and tied the game going into halftime.
A quick 6-0 run by the Grizzlies started off the second half and the Clippers really had nothing going until J.J. Redick hit a tough jumper to get them on the board. That’s when the slugfest started. That jumper started a 7-0 Clippers run, and the two sides engaged in a back-and-forth affair for the rest of the quarter. With just under three minutes to go, Memphis took a 4 point lead. However, that didn’t last long. The Clippers closed the quarter on a 10-2 run which was capped off by a Crawford corner three on a beautiful Josh Smith assist. The good guys went into the final frame up by 4 points themselves, and then the fun started.
The Clippers pushed the lead up to a game-high 8 points before Memphis used a 6-0 run – which featured a stupid Paul Pierce flagrant foul, where Pierce pushed Jeff Green in the back as Green was running full speed and jumping – to cut it back down to 2. Memphis was called for their own flagrant foul shortly after when Marc Gasol swatted Blake Griffin clear across the face. Nothing malicious about it, but rather a hard foul that was only a flagrant because it involved contact to the head. The Clippers lead then grew to 4, and that’s where it stayed for the most part until just under 5 minutes to go.
With the game coming to a close, former Clipper Matt Barnes nailed a three and Mike Conley made a layup after Barnes botched a fast break dunk to put Memphis back in the lead. Then the team’s three biggest offensive weapons showed up. Blake Griffin made a tough contested layup, Chris Paul hit a mid-range jumper, and J.J. Redick hit a three with just under one minute to go to give the Clippers a single point lead. With 15 seconds to go, Redick got fouled shooting a three, and made all three to push the lead to 4. The game was over. Or so we thought.
Matt Barnes got fouled – somewhere – on a three-point attempt by Chris Paul, made all three free throws, and suddenly the Grizzlies were back down just one. From there, the team just simply had to make free throws and be smart with their strategy. Crawford nailed two free throws to push the lead to 3, and then they had Griffin foul Gasol to avoid any chance of a game-tying three-point attempt. Gasol missed the first, made the second, and then the Clippers went to the line to ice it for good. And then they didn’t.
Crawford missed the first, made the second, and Griffin fouled Gasol intentionally again with the team up 3. Gasol made the first, but he missed the second intentionally only to get his own rebound and get fouled again. Down by 2 points, Gasol sank the first. With 3.5 seconds to go and trailing by 1 point, Gasol promptly missed the second one, Chris Paul got the rebound, and got fouled. Smartly, with 0.3 seconds to go, Paul missed the last free throw and the game ended without any chance for Memphis to tie or win. The Clippers, somehow, won this game.
It’s easy to say that the Clippers don’t win this game without Chris Paul, considering he finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, but it goes far beyond anything measured in statistics. He was the steady hand the Clippers needed down the stretch. He and Blake Griffin showed up in the game’s biggest moments. Griffin finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. The team’s two highest-profile players displayed why they’re so tough for opponents when the team needed them to do so. Huge game for each guy, even if the stats don’t show it fully for Paul.
Special hat tip to J.J. Redick for his performance, as well. 16 points on 8 shots is incredible, but it went far beyond that. Tony Allen suffocated Redick a ton in the first half, which is the reason Redick only had one single shot attempt in the game’s opening 24 minutes. Yet, in the fourth quarter and with the game on the line, Redick nailed a huge three to give the Clippers the lead and sank all three free throws after getting fouled on a three to further expand their lead. You can always count on the man to show up.
The other piece of the big four, DeAndre Jordan, seemed like he was sleepwalking through the entire game. There was some talk that certain members of the team were dealing with the flu or something of the sort. No idea if Jordan was, but he did have 13 points and 12 rebounds, as well as 4 blocks, on 6-of-9 shooting. Incredibly, despite that stat line, it seemed like he was simply out of it tonight. These types of games happen from time to time so there’s nothing really to take away from it. If he plays lackluster and has a double-double with multiple blocks, can you really be all that mad?
Honorary starter at small forward Lance Stephenson went just 1-of-4 from the field, finished with 3 points, had 3 rebounds, and 1 assist in 20:56. The problem for Stephenson in this game was that he had 4 turnovers and looked utterly atrocious at certain times. This was Bad Lance tonight. Attitude was fine, but the play was not. He’s trying out there. The issue, though, is that sometimes he tries far too hard. That might have been the case tonight.
The bench was hit-and-miss tonight. Austin Rivers supplied 9 points on 4 shots, as well as a nice assist to Jordan for a dunk and 2 steals. Rivers played exceptionally well tonight when he was on the floor. Give him credit. Jamal Crawford led the bench in scoring with 13 points on 7 shots. He still took some poor shots and played some lazy defense, but at least he got to the free throw line and attacked the rim. So, there was that.
Among the other bench pieces, Josh Smith was 0-of-2 yet had 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocks. Smith is offensive to the senses on offense right now, but his defense against Memphis was pretty spot-on quite a lot of the time. Credit to him. Paul Pierce looked bad. He was 0-of-5 from the field and 0-of-4 from three, but it went far beyond the shutout in the scoring column. The guy was being beaten repeatedly by Jeff Green whenever the two were on the court and Pierce’s steep decline early in the year is noticeable. There was really only a 9-man bench rotation as Wesley Johnson only played 70 seconds and Luc Mbah a Moute played 15 seconds.
Honestly, it seemed like Doc Rivers coached this game pretty flawlessly for a lot of the duration. He never really left the entire bench out there by themselves all that much, minus a couple minute stretch in the first half, and seemed like he understood rotations better. Yes, it’s only the seventh game of the season but any positive sign is, well, a positive sign. The only issue might be playing Pierce 24:34 when he clearly wasn’t doing much, but one issue at a time. This was a really good job done by the head coach tonight. Especially with the late-game fouling.
Give a ton of credit to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight. They came into this game riding a two-game losing streak and playing some abysmal basketball. Tonight, they mucked it up much in their Grit-and-Grind style, and it forced the Clippers into a horribly flowed game that fit Memphis’ style much more than Los Angeles’. Zach Randolph led the way with a game-high 26 points, most of which were mid-range jumpers that the Clippers let him take at will. They gave him something and he tortured them with it.
On the flip side, despite having 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in 37:05, Marc Gasol played a pretty spotty game. The crucial free throw misses notwithstanding, Gasol let Jordan score on a post-up against him and looked like he had no idea what he was doing half of the time. It’s hard to even say whether or not Gasol is in-shape. He’s sort of just there. And that sucks.
Mike Conley had 16 points on 15 shots, Tony Allen had 6 points on 6 shots, and Courtney Lee had 6 points on 6 shots. It’s hard to win games when the other three members of your starting lineup combine for nearly as many shots as points. Their bench didn’t play much better, as they only connected on 7-of-26 shots. Their bench is putrid, but they were without some key players on that end. Former Clipper Matt Barnes was a bright spot as he finished with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 26:17. It was nice to see him again.
Memphis’ lack of outside shooting is killing that team. They only attempted 11 threes, making just 2 of them. To put it bluntly, it’s hard to win games and pull away when you can’t hit threes. It’s almost a prerequisite in the NBA right now. They did a really good job of running the Clippers off of the three-point line all night, giving up just 19 attempts, but having 11 yourself is never good. The Grizzlies won’t change their fur, but perhaps they need a facelift.
According to early Player Tracking data from SportVU, the Clippers shot just 37.9 percent (11-of-29) on uncontested shots in this game. The team simply struggled. But, as mentioned, they pulled a win out and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. The other blemish is that they turned the ball over 18 times and allowed Memphis to score 18 points off of them. How do you help a team that’s worse than you stay in the game? Turnovers. The Clippers did that tonight. Have to clean that up.
As of right now, the good news is that the team is 5-2 and has played in quite a few close games lately. They’re getting all the experience they need late in tough games. Probably more than they would want at this point in time. Perhaps that will pay off later on in the season. It seems like the Golden State Warriors are going to run roughshod over the Western Conference again, so keeping up with a team like the San Antonio Spurs for the all-important second seed will be of the utmost importance.
Up next, the team gets to travel to Texas and play the Dallas Mavericks in DeAndre Jordan’s first game back in the state since his flip-flopping. The good news for the Clippers is that Dallas will be on the second night of a back-to-back, so perhaps Los Angeles can steal a game on the road against a potential Western Conference playoff team. A win is a win is a win. This win wasn’t aesthetically appealing, but they gutted it out. Now, all eyes ahead as the squad rolls into Dallas. Time to get started on another win streak. Good win, guys.