Despite the worrisome news pre-game that Blake Griffin would be out for an extended period with a knee injury, the Clippers managed to pull out a win in Utah against a tough Jazz team. The news came down that Josh Smith would start, but that experiment didn't last long--Smith was pulled after a few minutes (stripped in the lane, blocked on a dunk, committed a TO on a lob to DeAndre Jordan), and Paul Pierce proved to be the solution Doc Rivers was hunting for.
Smith didn't get much of a chance to get going, with his few minutes coming alongside Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. That pairing severely limits the Clippers' offensive spacing, and it showed, as the floor opened up when Smith came out.
Playing with the starters, and getting open looks from deep on the same type of plays that normally grant Blake Griffin open mid-range jumpers, Pierce was a spectacular 5-7 from deep, finishing with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in his 27 minutes. J.J. Redick provided further spacing, hitting 5-7 from downtown himself and finishing the game with 25 points.
The Clippers started slow, going down 21-11 late in the opening quarter, but a closing spurt brought the score to 26-18 at the end of the frame. With the help of Wesley Johnson's first-half spurt (all 9 of his points came in the opening 24 minutes), the visiting Clips brought the deficit down to 5 at halftime, and the hot shooting from Redick and Pierce carried the Clippers into a controlling position in the second half. While the Clippers were unable to really blow the game open to stop it from being close down the stretch, they managed to hold off Utah.
- Paul Pierce is better with the starters. He just doesn't fit with a bench unit that doesn't run a lot of offensive sets, and when he plays with the first unit he's able to get better shots off.
- Josh Smith didn't play great in his few minutes, but he probably deserves more of a chance in the coming Griffin-less games. A lineup with better spacing would really help Josh out on offense, and he forms a strong defensive pairing with DeAndre Jordan.
- Lance Stephenson isn't being used properly. The ball needs to be in his hands more on offense, and he can't just sit in the corner for the entire possession. When he gets touches, he's inconsistent and definitely turnover-prone, but the energy and pace he brings is worthwhile on most nights and it's a shame to just put him in the corner to watch Jamal dribble.
- Jamal Crawford was awful tonight. A really, really poor 1-10 shooting night (why keep shooting when you can't make anything?) to go along with 1 assist, 2 turnovers, and 4 fouls is not a great box score. Throw in the poor shot selection and timing, along with at least two plays where he fell asleep and gave up a wide-open layup to his man on a backdoor cut, and it comes together for one abysmal performance off the bench. I maintain that he has a role to play and a contribution to make for this team long-term, but tonight it wasn't pretty.
- Cole Aldrich was phenomenal. He took a couple of silly shots, but he finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 13 minutes. He played very well with Pablo Prigioni in the pick-and-roll, excelling at catching a pass from Prigioni and then finding shooters on the weak side when the defense collapsed.