Unbelievably, the Los Angeles Clippers gave this game away before the Detroit Pistons sort of handed it right back to them. In a fit of kindness, the Clippers decided that both teams needed to having a jousting contest wherein both knights were not only blind, but also swinging pool noodles at each other. The end result was two idiots hitting nothing but air at the end of the game, and then trying to come up with a valid excuse for actually winning the whole darn thing. In the end, 48 minutes were not enough to settle this tussle. Instead, we needed to endure 53 minutes of heart-pounding idiocy, vomit-inducing possessions, and eye-bursting mindlessness. In overtime, the Clippers somehow survived enough to pull out a 105-103 victory. We need to discuss this one.
We’re going to fast-forward here, at least in some sense. The Clippers jumped out to a 13-2 lead before the Pistons closed the gap, and the two teams were tied at 27 going into the second quarter. In the second quarter, Los Angeles’ defense clamped down just enough to hold the Pistons to only 12 points in the quarter, and just 5-of-18 shooting. The Clippers went into halftime with a 9-point lead. They then carried a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, which they could thank Blake Griffin for since he dropped in 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the third quarter alone. That’s when the fun – if you want to even call it that – really started.
The Pistons took their first lead of the night with 6:42 to go in the fourth quarter when Reggie Jackson knocked home a shot from beyond the arc. The Clippers did their best to keep it close despite losing the lead. At one point they went down by 6 points after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a three with 3:00 to play. The deficit dwindled down to just 2 after a DeAndre Jordan and-one, but it was 4 points with 33:0 to go. That’s when Jamal Crawford drew a foul. Crawford made both free throws, but the Clippers did a smart thing on the second one – J.J. Redick jumped on Andre Drummond’s back to unintentionally intentionally foul him. That sent Drummond to the line, where he made only one. With 19.6 to go, Redick hit a game-tying corner three. On the final shot of regulation, Reggie Jackson missed a jumper over Blake Griffin, and the two teams were headed to overtime.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair. They were tied on four separate occasions, and Caldwell-Pope split his pair of free throws with 30.5 to go to tie it for the final time. With 12.4 seconds to go, Jamal Crawford knocked down a mind-bogglingly wide open three-pointer to put the Clippers in front for good. However, it wasn’t without hilarity. The Clippers fouled Reggie Jackson with 9.3 to go, and Jackson made the first free throw. Jackson missed the second one, the rebound caromed off the glass, and Detroit had two point blank shots to tie the game, but both Drummond and Jackson missed. The ball then slipped to the baseline where Jackson picked it up, heaved a 15-footer, and the ball clanked off the iron as the buzzer sounded right afterwards. At the end of the madness, the Clippers were 105-103 winners.
Blake Griffin finished with 34 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds on 15-of-30 shooting. He had 24 of the 34 points in the second half and overtime. That was in 25:05 of action for him. Griffin was 8-of-11 inside 8 feet, and his mid-range jumper sort of came back to him at times in this game – he was 7-of-16 from 16-to-24 feet. While people will probably focus on the lack of rebounds, Griffin fought his tail off a lot in this game. He hustled defensively, switched on smaller guards, and kept his composure in some of the game’s biggest moments. Oddly enough, Griffin also had 34 points in the first meeting between the two teams. At least someone was consistent.
The second star of the game would probably go to J.J. Redick. He had 24 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists on 10-of-17, but it was his massively clutch game-tying three with a few ticks left in regulation that really changed this game. Redick had 15 of his 24 in the second half and overtime, and that’s something that people really cannot overlook. The offense hums to a completely different tune when he’s in the game, and tonight was no different. It feels great to have him on this team.
Chris Paul finished with 13 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals, but he only shot 6-of-16. He was in control offensively, however his shot did look off. Hopefully that starts to turn around soon. DeAndre Jordan had 7 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 3-of-5. The upside is that he went to the line just 3 times, making 1, and that helped the Clippers keep a flow somewhat. Luc Mbah a Moute had 2 points on 2 shots, while also having 4 rebounds and 1 steal. Luc did what Luc does – i.e. just do the gritty work. In their 17 minutes on the floor together, the starting lineup had a +30.0 Net Rating. They certainly do seem to fit well.
The bench was a problem tonight. Obviously that’s not a shock. They blew a 10-point lead in almost no time, and their inability to get easy shots kills them. Everything is perimeter based. What is a shock, though, is that Lance Stephenson played 0 seconds tonight. That’s not ideal. Jamal Crawford led the way off the bench with 14 points, including that go-ahead three with 12.4 to play. Wesley Johnson had 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals on 2-of-6 shooting. Josh Smith had 2 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, and 1 steal in just 9:16, but he was 1-of-6. Austin Rivers had 2 points and 1 block in 15:02, but shot 1-of-5. Paul Pierce knocked in two free throws for his point total, but was 0-of-2 in 11:16. Either way, the bench stunk. On a night where a spark could have helped that unit, Doc Rivers kept Stephenson’s rear end firmly entrenched on the pine, and only he knows why. That’s disheartening.
Reggie Jackson tied Blake Griffin with a game-high 34 points. He also had 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 steal on 9-of-18 shooting. He made both three point attempts, as well as 14 of his 16 foul shots. Jackson routinely gave Los Angeles trouble as they let him get a couple threes off and get to the rim nearly at will. At a certain point, you have to expect the team change their pick-and-roll coverage – especially on nights where a point guard is carving them up in those sort of sets.
Andre Drummond had 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 steals, but he had 0 blocks and shot just 8-of-17. No idea what Detroit was trying to accomplish early on in this game when they tried to force feed Drummond for post-ups. It’s dumb, and they should feel dumb for doing it. The key is that the Clippers kept him off the offensive glass until the very end. He only had 4 offensive boards on the night, and that’s something you can live with if you’re the Clippers.
The other bright spots for Detroit were Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aron Baynes. The former first round pick Caldwell-Pope had 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists, but it was his two fourth quarter threes that could have sunk the Clippers. Baynes finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds, but 4 of those 6 rebounds were on the offensive end. The Clippers had no answer for him as he just routinely bullied the lackluster Los Angeles bench. That’s not exactly fun to watch for minutes at a time.
The two players who started at the forward spots, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova, combined to shoot just 6-of-18 from the field, and they had a grand total of 12 points. They weren’t good. As for their bench, sans Baynes of course, Steve Blake had 5 points on 2-of-3 shooting, Anthony Tolliver had 3 points and 6 rebounds, but he only shot 1-of-5. Rookie Stanley Johnson played 19:09, shot 0-of-5, and finished with 4 rebounds, but he went scoreless. Stan Van Gundy went with a 9-man rotation tonight, and it almost worked before the Pistons ultimately gave the game right back.
On a night that the team took 34 shots from 16-to-24 feet, compared to just 30 shots from inside 8 feet, the Los Angeles Clippers managed to win the game. They only attempted 15 free throws, made just 6 threes, gave up 15 offensive rebounds and 31 free throws, yet still won the game. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t a whole lot of things. What was it, though? A victory. In the middle of the Western Conference, a win on a night that you play average in a lot of areas is something to enjoy. So, try to savor this one.
The Clippers are now 15-10 on the season, and they’ve won 8 of their last 10 games. Up next, they get the Milwaukee Bucks before having to go right back on the road for a back-to-back against the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. After that, they get the Oklahoma City Thunder at home before the Christmas Day meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers. These upcoming four games are big – especially because three of the four are against current Western Conference playoff squads. You can look bad and still win against certain teams in the league, but not against those three. First things first, all eyes will be on the Bucks as they visit STAPLES on Wednesday. Until then, stay focused. And enjoy this win, even if it was bantha fodder.