DeAndre Jordan shot the worst free throw this side of Mark Madsen, going all Scott Norwood and missing wide right. So, when Memphis Coach Dave Joerger went Hack-A-DJ to lengthen the fourth quarter to give his trailing team a chance, it would figure that Jordan would convert five of eight free throws to help the Clippers hold off the Grizzlies, 97-79.
DeAndre should change his name to Max Contract, because that's what he's earned himself with his recent play. In the third quarter, he submitted the play of the game, a heads-up, one-touch, tap pass back to Chris Paul, who had just run himself out of his dribble. Jordan notched his fourth 20-rebound game of the month and backed a Clipper defense that looked sharp all game, forcing the Grizzlies into 14 turnovers and holding them to just 37.9% shooting.
His smaller teammates did the rest. Jamal Crawford had a hot second quarter to help the Clippers to a halftime draw, and J.J. Redick came out running and firing in the third to propel the team to a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The Grizzlies made their charges, and it took more than the Clippers banging on a pot to scare them off. You can pick any number of moments from the third and early fourth quarter where it felt like the Clippers would push the lead to 15 and put the home team away. Each time, the Grizzlies forced a turnover and picked up an easy bucket to stay within shouting distance.
But noise is all it was. The Clippers beat back every rally, and Memphis never truly threatened after halftime. Chris Paul, who had a typically efficient game (19 points, 13 assists, 1 turnover), sank a 25-foot three-pointer -- or four-pointer as Ralph Lawler called it -- with 4:05 left to send the FedEx Forum crowd to the exits and the Grizzlies into desperation mode.
It was a well-balanced effort from the visitors, and the starting lineup was dominating again. Paul, Redick, and Matt Barnes all finished +22 or better, although it helped that Coach Joerger seemed intent on giving his travel-worn squad extra rest.
All in all, the Clippers earned themselves an impressive road win over a prime Western conference rival, and did it in emphatic enough fashion to earn C.J. Wilcox and Ekpe Udoh a rare late-game appearance, and Jordan Hamilton a brief debut.
Now, on to Chicago.
Some other (mostly serious) things I noticed:
- Nick Calathes is a lesson to everyone that you needn't be a spectacular athlete, or even a good one, to be a solid defender. He's as slow as Matt Hasselbeck, and just as bald, too, but he never plays himself out of position. Tonight, he seemed to know every pet play the Clippers have, every arcing Redick backpedal, every Barnes sidestep into a three-pointer, because he consistently beat his opponents to their spot. It was a lesson DeAndre took several years to learn, that sometimes, just knowing where to be is half the battle.
- Informal poll question: do you like it when the home arena plays music during possession? I hate it. Nay, I loathe it. It's a basketball game, not a music video. Soundtracks are for slow-motion "White Men Can't Jump" montages, not live-action NBA games. Cut it out.