Hopefully everyone had a lovely Christmas with their families. The Los Angeles Clippers decided to give their fans a gift by defeating the cross-hall rival Los Angeles Lakers last night, so we’re going to look back at the early parts of the game and take a gander at the individual presents each of the starting five delivered to the team. As far as starting units go, the one that the Clippers are currently trotting out there has played a grand total of 204 minutes this season. In that time, they’ve managed to put up a +11.6 Net Rating. While it’s not as good as some of the other lineups with the Core Four, namely the ones with Lance Stephenson (+19.9) or Jamal Crawford (+15.5), it’s still a viable unit because of each player’s individual prowess. So, without further ado, let’s look at what they did last night early in the game.
First, we’re going to unwrap the thoughtful present that Blake Griffin left underneath the tree. The best draft pick in Los Angeles Clippers history gets the ball at the left elbow in a post-up situation against Jordan Clarkson after Chris Paul runs off of two screens. The switch forces Larry Nance Jr. onto Paul, while Clarkson has to then take Griffin. The end result is what you would expect. Griffin gets the ball, faces up, then does a quick spin move to lose Clarkson before finishing with a left-handed layup as the rest of the Laker defense just stood and watched.
This is the video game that you wanted, and your mom actually picked out the right one rather than mistaking it for last year’s version. We’ve all been there. You ask for Uncharted 2, but your mom gets you Uncharted without realizing you already played that. I ALREADY PLAYED THE GAME, MOM! I DON’T NEED IT AGAIN! Whew, anyways, Griffin is that new video game. You take him for a whirl right out of the wrapping, and he delivers right off the bat with shiny moves and features. He’s fun.
After you’re done unwrapping the video game, you want to dig your claws into the next gift. Out comes Chris Paul on a side-out-of-bounds play. He gets the ball from J.J. Redick, and receives a screen from DeAndre Jordan. As he comes off the screen, Paul notices that Roy Hibbert has absolutely zero interest in stepping out onto the perimeter to guard him. So, what does Paul do? Well, he just spots up from the right elbow area and sinks the jumper he’s been known to hit for years now. Paul’s rounding into fine form one game at a time, so this was nice to see.
Paul’s ability to work screens and get open in the mid-range game is one of life’s fun presents. It’s the skateboard you wanted when you were 16, but your parents thought you couldn’t handle a skateboard safely so they got you a Razor Scooter because, well, it’s safer than a skateboard, or whatever lies they told you because they didn’t want to give you your freedom. LET ME BE MY OWN INDEPENDENT PERSON, DAD! Paul’s the skateboard, though. You take him out, he works the turns, you do some sweet tricks, and it’s usually ends in you winning at life.
You already have the video game and the skateboard, but your parents always wanted you to try your hand at a hobby. On this play, J.J. Redick gets the ball after running off of a down screen from DeAndre Jordan. Paul fires the ball where Redick is going to be, Redick catches it in stride, and then the former Duke star unfurls a long range bomb in the face of Roy Hibbert. It’s what Redick does. He just moves around the periphery waiting for angles and lanes to make his presence felt. He did that here.
Remember when your parents wanted you to take up an outside hobby? Ya know, like archery? Well, they bought you this Nerf Big Bad Bow because you can’t be trusted with deadly weapons, or so they say. I’M RESPONSIBLE, DAMMIT! But you’re going to show them. You’re not going to go outside and shoot the tree in the backyard. Oh, no no no. You’re going to shoot it at them while they’re trying to watch 60 Minutes. Why? Because that’s what you do. You’re a sniper. You wait for your moment to strike, and then you unleash a barrage they’re not ready for. That’s J.J. Redick.
When you finally get around to that fourth present, you’re already staring at the other three as if they’re enough, but your parents want you to feel loved so they went out and got you something else. The Clippers run their double high screen game here, and it makes the Lakers look like amateurs. When D’Angelo Russell runs into DeAndre Jordan, he either gets hit in the face with an inadvertent elbow, or he played it off well. Jordan releases from the screen, rolls to the basket parallel with Paul, and Paul fires a lob pass to Jordan for the jam as Hibbert closes down on Paul’s drive. Credit to Julius Randle for looking oblivious here, by the way. Lob City, baby.
Pogo sticks used to be an ‘it’ item for a while. Kids loved them, parents gave them away like hot cakes, and they were pretty easy going. Jordan is that pogo stick. He’s there when you need him. Do you need some outside exercise today, but you don’t feel like using your skateboard or Nerf Big Bad Bow? Use the pogo stick. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s fun. I DIDN’T ASK FOR IT, BUT THANK YOU ANYWAYS! You always find the pogo stick in the attic like 20 years later, and you then go out on the driveway to test it out. It still has that same hop. Thank you for those hops, DeAndre.
Luc Mbah a Moute is pretty much making an impact without actually showing up in the scoresheet. As the last member of the starting lineup to get a video about him, it seems appropriate that we talk about his defense. Here, Kobe Bryant comes off of a little curl. Mbah a Moute is right there with him on the catch, and Kobe has to resort to this pseudo post game that has no hope of working most of the time now. Bryant dribbles left, and then he pulls up for a hotly contested jumper as Mbah a Moute is right there with him. Ball clanks off iron, Clippers get rebound, and Luc does his job.
This is that gift your grandmother gave you – and not even a gift from your cool grandmother. You know the one we’re talking about here. There’s always one grandmother who gives you cash, and then there’s another who gives you some medial thing to help you further advance your life. I’M A GROWN MAN, GRANDMA. I DON’T NEED A DAMN BAGEL BUTLER! I DON’T EVEN EAT BAGELS! But that’s Mbah a Moute. He’s there to keep things fresh, always helping you in a pinch when you need it the most. He’s the bread to your sandwich. He’s the life essential thing you didn’t think you’d ever use, but now you use it a lot.
So, there you have it. The starting five delivered presents to the team and fans on Christmas Day. While some gifts are better than others, they all serve a purpose to help you get through your day. Whether it’s a skateboard, video game, pogo stick, Nerf Big Bad Bow, or even a Bagel Butler, you’re going to find a use for all of those things whether you think you will or not. That’s just the way it goes. As the Clippers progress through this season, we’ll see if they can find some more presents that were stashed under the tree this holiday season. Until then, Merry Giftmas.