Sometimes a game recap can be written after the first half. And sometimes DeAndre Jordan gets ejected in the third quarter.
Tonight was one of the latter, as the Clippers' starting center picked up two technical fouls in quick succession while arguing a foul call he didn't get. Fortunately for the Clippers, his unceremonious dismissal only delayed the inevitable, as they took down the visiting Milwaukee Bucks, 103-90.
In many ways, it looked easier than it actually was. The Clippers played well, shaking off early rust or travel weariness or something, leading comfortably for nearly the entire duration of the game. Give credit to the Bucks though, because they managed to stay in there. This was a game in which the scoreboard and the eyes disagreed -- the Clippers looked like they were running away with the game without actually covering much distance.
Milwaukee's young team stayed competitive by two means. In the first half, it was through effective work on the offensive glass. The Bucks turned 10 offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points to stay within shouting distance of a Clipper offense that was looking like itself again. Blake Griffin scored 13 first-half points on his way to a 15/8/5 line for the game, and the Clippers shot a heady 51/50/85 (FG%/3P%/FT%) to secure an 11-point lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Bucks found help from the officials in the form of the aforementioned DeAndre ejection. They also found help from the Clippers, who turned the ball over 6 times in the frame. Milwaukee also kept it tight through the fourth, closing to within 7 at one point, but the home offense was simply too effective to concede this victory, converting better than 52% from deep and 48% overall.
Doc Rivers got standout performances from all over. Chris Paul was in top form and played near top speed, finishing with 21 points, 8 assists, and multiple highlights. JJ Redick scored 19 and splashed 3 threes. Blake was typically steady. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played with enough offensive aggressiveness to make the Bucks pay just enough attention to him. Paul Pierce's legs found the juice to drive to the rim a couple times. Josh Smith made some more heroic threes.
However, it was Lance Stephenson, coming off Monday's DNP-CD, who had the crowd-pleasing performance. His energy, creative passing, energy, enthusiastic celebrations, and energy fueled a solid performance from the Clippers bench unit.
For the Bucks, Michael Carter-Williams and O.J. Mayo tied for the team-high in scoring with 17 each. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who started the game on the bench in what seemed to be a last-minute decision, led the Bucks with 11 rebounds in 33 minutes.
A little more than two minutes into the game, the STAPLES Center lights dimmed three times in quick succession to briefly delay the game... Paul Pierce nailed a jumper at the 1st quarter buzzer to score his 26,000th point... For what it's worth, the officiating crew that ejected DeAndre was the same crew that ejected Blake Griffin in Chicago last week... The Clippers have won 9 of 11, and haven't lost to the Bucks in Los Angeles since 2007.