Since the departure of Blake Griffin to right elbow surgery, the Clippers have played five games with tonight being the latest. They’re now 4-1 after a resounding victory over the Sacramento Kings. This clearly illustrates that the Clippers need to move Griffin immediately when the offseason hits and players can be moved. Nothing else will suffice. This team is massively better without his ball-hogging nature and black hole offense that somehow results in being the only player in the NBA to average 20-7-5. The team has rallied together and pulled off four straight wins. Those four straight wins also coincide with a return to the lineup by sharpshooter J.J. Redick. The team’s offensive rhythm seems better than ever and it’s because the malcontent is rotting away on the bench with nothing to do but watch as his teammates have fun. And, while we’re at it, let’s trade away Chris Paul since he’s clearly fed up with Los Angeles and his teammates. It makes it easier to do since his replacement, Austin Rivers, is already on the bench and ready to roll.
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After a poor start to the game, that saw the team fall behind by as much as ten points after the Kings pulled in front 29-19, the Clippers got a great contribution from the bench and pulled away to make this game a laugher in the fourth quarter. Powered by a 24 minute stretch that saw them outscore the Kings 73-36, the Clippers played their bench the entire fourth quarter so that the starters could rest up and get ready for the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. The team was led by Austin Rivers, who scored a career-high and game-high 28 points, and would have scored more had his teammates not frozen him out late in the game like he was Russell Westbrook in the All-Star Game, and Glen Davis. It’s quite apparent that the team’s new “dynamic duo” is already here and just needed to get more playing time. All that matters is that J.J. Redick also plays when they do and the Clippers would cease to lose a game for the rest of the season.
Despite the sluggish start, the Clippers never really lost their composure all that much. Even when DeAndre Jordan picked up his fourth foul with 9:28 to go in the third quarter, the Clippers didn’t give up any ground. And, due to that, Jordan wasn’t needed at any point after that. The team lengthened their 18-point lead quite a bit after that point and ultimately made newly-minted Kings coach George Karl’s squad look like mincemeat. Sure, there were bad things in this game. For instance, they started off by shooting 7-for-27 in the first quarter and allowing the Kings to get secondary breaks and easy run outs for dunks or layups. It happens. But then the team stopped doing that. After turning it over five times in the first quarter, they turned it over just six times the rest of the game and two of those were in the fourth quarter. You can live with that quite easily.
It also helped that all-star center DeMarcus Cousins looked rattled and annoyed for most of this contest. He finished with 21 points but did so on just 6-for-19 shooting while committing five fouls, four turnovers, and only collecting four rebounds. Rudy Gay also had an especially quiet night, scoring 15 points but shooting just 4-for-13. In general, the Kings played terrible after the first quarter, which was highlighted by their 10-for-43 shooting during the second and third quarters while turning the ball over ten times. In short, they reverted back to the Tyrone Corbin Kings for that period of time. That turned out to be the nail in their coffin as Austin Rivers, Glen Davis, Jamal Crawford, and J.J. Redick buried them six feet under.
In the “holy hell, I didn’t notice that category”, Omri Casspi had 17 rebounds for the Kings in 28 minutes. It was random. He had 12 last night but 17 is crazy. He seems to fit the Karl system really well. It should also be noted that Ray McCallum didn’t play poorly tonight. The Clippers just tortured his backup, former Clipper Andre Miller. Miller couldn’t guard anyone and let everyone get by him or got shook so bad it shifted the defense. Glen Davis’ impact can’t be talked about enough. His 5-8-3-0-3 line in 19 minutes doesn’t look astounding but he was a game-changer. Just like Rivers was. Total team effort, especially from the guys off the bench who really helped turned this game around before the starters came back in to pave the way.
I was going to do a “Ten Tidbits” tonight but, frankly, I’m tired and haven’t slept much in the last week thanks to a 100-minute read article that I wrote about the State of the NBA at the All-Star Break. I need sleep. So, instead, you’re just going to get the conclusion portion and have to live with it. I can hear you cheering in the background already. Anyways, in all seriousness, this was an awesome team effort tonight and Austin Rivers did play superb basketball. I don’t know how much longer the Clippers can keep up this play without Blake Griffin but it’s fun to enjoy while it lasts.
This was the second straight strong game by Jamal Crawford since the Trade Deadline so perhaps the pressure is off his shoulders. DeAndre Jordan’s stretch of games with at least a 50 percent field goal percentage is over after going 5-for-11 tonight. But he did have 15 rebounds. And Paul only had 10 points and 9 assists tonight. Yet the team won. Because of that , the team finds themselves in the 5-seed and just one game behind both Houston and Portland in the loss column for the 3-seed. They’ll get their cracks at moving up, though, and it starts on Monday night when they welcome the Grizzlies into STAPLES Center. After that, it’s on the road. But it’s time to recognize this run for what it is; surprising and welcome. We’re surviving. It’s like March Madness. Survive and advance. Just keep fighting.
*If you actually think I'm being serious about trading Blake Griffin and/or Chris Paul, then you need to get some sleep as well.