There's not enough pharmaceutical aids in the world to even ingest after this game. After watching the Super Bowl last night, the Los Angeles Clippers decided that they were going to play the role of the Seattle Seahawks today and allow the Brooklyn Nets to play the role of the New England Patriots. And, much like 24 hours ago, the team with a lead in the fourth quarter didn't fare quite so well down the stretch and blundered a win away.
|Los Angeles Clippers
Like in the Super Bowl, despite playing a lackluster opening quarter, the two squads were all even and looking for some kind of spark in the second quarter. It didn't come. The second quarter was much worse than the first quarter and there was no way to even think that was possible. Yet, lo and behold, it happened. After he played played four minutes in the first quarter, it was disclosed that J.J. Redick was dealing with back spasms and was questionable to return. He never did. The teams would exchange garbage possessions until Hedo Turkoglu splashed in a three thanks to an assist by Austin Rivers. Brook Lopez tortured the Clippers in the quarter, totaling 12 of his game-high 24 points in the quarter. Lopez, at one point, also hit a double-clutch 20-foot jumper. It was that kind of night. Chris Paul capped off the opening half with a layup to slice the Nets lead down to two at halftime and ended a first half that was one of the worst halves of basketball ever seen by western civilization.
The Clippers used an 11-2 run to open up the second half -- thanks to a Matt Barnes three, Barnes layup in transition, Griffin to Jordan alley-oop, Griffin mid-range jumper, and Paul floater -- and it seemed like things were finally going to sort themselves out in the second half. After the Clippers stretched it out with a 13-4 run, Joe Johnson made a bucket to trim the lead back down to five before Jamal Crawford got fouled on a jumper. After a Crawford three and him splitting a pair of free throws, the Clippers saw their lead climb up as high as eight points. The lead would get trimmed back down to three before the Nets went on a ridiculous run of made threes by Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams. DeAndre Jordan had a putback and got fouled but missed the free throw. It was okay, though, as Matt Barnes got the rebound and put it back in to give the Clippers a one point lead. Chris Paul got fouled on an inbounds play to end the half but only made one of the two free throws to give the Clippers a 72-70 lead at the end of the third quarter.
If the game had ended there, it would have been fine. Anyways, the fourth quarter started off pretty decent for both teams. The Nets tied it up thanks to a Deron Williams layup but then the Clippers used Jamal Crawford's ridiculousness to their advantage. Crawford even killed the ankles of Bogdanovic at one point. After that, he found Hawes for a three to put the Clippers up five. However, Bogdanovic would get his revenge with a key three to cut the lead back down to two. The Clippers would eventually go up by as much as eleven points with 5:17 to go after a DeAndre Jordan dunk off of a beautiful play and dime by Chris Paul. The Nets would slowly start to crawl back, though. Johnson would hit a long two, Paul would split a pair of free throws, and then Johnson would hit a three to cut it down to seven before Brook Lopez hit a hook shot to cut it down to five with 3:15 to go. Chris Paul stopped the bleeding with a nice floater. The two teams exchanged Hack-a-Terrible-Free-Throw-Shooting-Big-Man strategies with the Clippers actually adding a point to their lead after DeAndre Jordan made one of his free throws and Mason Plumlee missed both of his. After the miss, Blake Griffin found a cutting Matt Barnes for a layup to put the Clippers ahead by nine with 1:46 to go.
And then the real fun began. Alan Anderson hit a three to cut the lead down to six but Jordan answered that with a putback to push it back up to eight before Deron Williams nailed a three from near Poughkeepsie to cut it back down to five with about a minute to go. Blake Griffin then missed two free throws, which was a theme of the night. On the other end, Joe Johnson missed both of his free throws but got the rebound and then nailed a huge three to cut the lead down to two. Chris Paul came down and missed a jumper and then all hell broke loose when Alan Anderson, of all people, delivered on a 4-point play that saw Griffin foul out. With the Clippers trailing by two, Paul drove and scored on a layup to tie the game. And then Jarrett Jack ripped our hearts out with 1.3 seconds to go before the Clippers ran an inbounds play that ended up going nowhere and found themselves on the end of a collapse they haven't seen since that one game that shall not be mentioned. When the buzzer sounded, the Clippers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and lost to the Nets, 102-100.
1.) The Brooklyn Nets got hot at the absolute right times in this game; to end quarters. They ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run and then ended the game on a 15-4 run. Any time you're able to put runs like those together over small stretches of time, you'll sometimes win games no matter how you played over the other parts of the game. That happened tonight. Clippers just didn't end quarters well. The Nets did.
2.) Blake Griffin looked like a shell of himself tonight. He did not look like the guy that played against the San Antonio Spurs but more like the guy against the New Orleans Pelicans. It happens. It's a long season and games like these do take place from time to time. All you can do is learn from them, grow, and move on. Griffin finished with 13 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. However, he was only 1-for-4 from the free throw line and fouled out on the play that changed the landscape of the game. It was painful to watch him play at times on defense because he looked lost against the spread out sets Brooklyn tried to run sometimes.
3.) DeAndre Jordan had a hot-and-cold game as far as it goes. He had his first career 20-point and 20-rebound game -- finishing with 22 points and 20 rebounds -- but also managed to go just 2-for-12 from the free throw line. You can always play the "if he had just made a couple more free throws" game but this is who he is. He still was good for the most part, no matter what the plus-minus says tonight. It had him as a -11 but I didn't feel he was a real negative when he was on the court, that's for sure. Jarrett Jack hitting the game-winning jumper over him was whatever. It happens.
4.) Chris Paul was pretty good tonight. He did miss the jumper that would have put the team up four late but he also hit the layup to tie the game and give the Clippers a chance on defense. He finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals on 8-for-18 shooting and 2-for-5 from three. He probably regrets missing two of his four free throws but the entire team was to blame from the line. Paul played well for the most part.
5.) Jamal Crawford had a weird game. He was 2-for-11 in the first half but 5-for-11 in the second half, with 10 of his points coming in the third quarter. Finishing 7-for-22 looks bad but Jamal hit some shots that the team needed. Crawford finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. He also happened to miss from the line tonight, going 2-for-3. He was pressed into 37:21 of action due to J.J. Redick's back spasms and tried to do the best he could. Redick's injury was a real killer, among many other things.
6.) Speaking of other things that killed the Clippers, free throws are the big thing. The team shot 8-for-25 from the line. They were 8-for-23 from three. So, yeah, they were worse from the free throw line than from three. That's fun. It was their worst free throw performance in team history, percentage wise, when attempting at least 20 free throws in a game. It was the first time since 2007 that a team has attempted 20 free throws and made 32.0 percent or less of them. And only the seventh time in NBA history. Only one of those seven teams actually won.
7.) The bench wasn't actually that bad tonight. They did okay and weren't the real problem. For the most part, they did their job and that's all you can ask from them. Spencer Hawes had 3 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block while Austin Rivers had 5 points, 2 assists, and 1 rebound. Glen Davis had four points, Hedo Turkoglu had three points, and, as mentioned, Jamal Crawford had 18.
8.) Brook Lopez killed the Clippers in the first half but wasn't heard from much in the second half. He had 18 points in the first half, including 12 of his game-high 24. He played 19:09 in the second half but registered just six points. He still helped them get through the tough times, though. His ability to torch either Clippers big was huge for the Nets and he did hit a hook shot late to bring them closer. He was good tonight.
9.) Deron Williams returned and had 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Deron hit the three from New Jersey and actually made three of his five attempts from beyond the arc. Bojan Bogdanovic hit three of his seven from deep and Joe Johnson poured in 22 points and made four of his six. Johnson missing two free throws, getting the rebound, and nailing a three was basically the true turning point in the game since a rebound there basically ends any chance the Nets have. It didn't happen and that was that. You tip your cap and move on.
10.) It's easy to say that the Clippers didn't deserve to win this game but they certainly didn't deserve to lose it in the manner that they did. And by saying they deserved to lose it means you're saying that the Nets deserved to win it when they played just as poorly as the Clippers did for vast stretches of this contest. The team with a nine point lead with 9-point lead with 1:45 to go ended up losing. The team with an 8-point lead with 1:10 to go ended up losing. Make no bones about it, the Nets got nearly every break they needed down the stretch. Much like the Patriots last night, the Seahawks (Clippers) helped them along the way. It's not that the Clippers deserved to win more, but they certainly didn't deserve to lose more.
If the New Orleans loss was hard as hell for the team to swallow, then this is a loss that'll get caught in their windpipe for quite some time. The good news is that they came back after that brutal loss to beat the hell out of the San Antonio Spurs on their own home floor the very next night. In this case, the Clippers have two nights off to think about things and right the ship before traveling to Cleveland to play the red-hot Cavaliers, winners of eleven in a row. No team with LeBron James on it is a pushover and Kyrie Irving's been playing like someone told him he shouldn't have been picked first overall a few years ago. They're scary.
Because of the loss, the Clippers have moved back into the 5-seed for the time being but are still just one back in the loss column of the 3-seed (Houston Rockets). Due to Houston's news about Dwight Howard being out for about a month, it's not looking good for the Rockets up there. Either way, the Clippers are 2-2 after the first four games on this Grammy Trip. If they had lost at San Antonio but won tonight, they'd still have the same record. Losses to Eastern Conference teams hurt only in pride rather than in the conference standings. After all, the Clippers still have the third best record in the West against conference opponents and are actually tied with the Warriors and Grizzlies in the loss column in that stat. In other words, the team is still okay. Losses happen. Horrible, ugly, tough losses happen. Just gotta keep chugging along. Never get too high and never get too low.