In what basically equated to the final game of a 9-game road trip – if you count just one game pit stops at home as not true home games since you go right back out on the road – the Clippers looked tired, beleaguered, and generally out of sorts after the opening frame. Their rotations broke down, their offense grew stagnant thanks in large part to Dallas’ defensive trapping, and they got worked over on the glass on both ends. It probably should have been expected but you always anticipate the best from your team against an opponent you deem less than you. The Mavericks proved they weren’t less than the Clippers. At least not tonight they weren’t. In a game that was absolutely a "must have" for Dallas, they certainly got it.
|Los Angeles Clippers
There are a lot of adjectives you could use to describe what the Clippers looked like on Friday night but the one that comes to mind first is just "exhausted." Everything they did seemed to take the utmost energy and it drained them even early on. It’s not a shock that the Clippers two best stretches of play in this game occurred directly after the game started and right after halftime. Every other facet of this game belonged to the Dallas Mavericks. Speaking of the Mavericks, missing wasn't in the cards for them tonight as they went 16-for-28 from three (57.1 percent) and made the Clippers pay on every late rotation and every drive to the basket by kicking it out to a shooter. And credit the Mavericks for doing that. They hit the shots they needed to hit in a game that they needed to win. The story of the game for them was that Chandler Parsons seemingly torched whoever was supposed to be stuck to his hip. Parsons went 8-for-12 overall and 5-for-6 from three to finish with a game-high 22 points, as well as 5 rebounds and 4 assists. He was on fire. It’s that simple.
If Doc Rivers wants to tout DeAndre Jordan as the Defensive Player of the Year, perhaps he should burn this game film from everyone’s minds and make sure it never sees the light of day. On the surface, Jordan’s game of 16 points and a game-high 18 rebounds looks great. The fact he hit his first career three-pointer was also fantastic. But he was late on rotations, not challenging well enough on shots at the rim, and got outplayed by Tyson Chandler when the two were in the game together. Chandler finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Chandler commanded the paint with authority and generally deterred shots when he was in the game.
Elsewhere in the game, J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes did their best to keep the Clippers afloat. Redick finished with a team-high 17 points and Barnes had 14. Spencer Hawes did his best and, oddly enough, was the only Clippers player to finish with a positive in +/-, with a +7 mark tonight. He had 4 points and 5 rebounds. Chris Paul didn’t really play well tonight. He finished with 11 points, 7 assists, and 5 steals but turned it over 4 times and only took 8 shots in 33 minutes of action. Jordan Hamilton led the bench with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting but all of those points were scored in garbage time. Austin Rivers had 9 points and Glen Davis had 8. Nate Robinson is now 4-for-24 as a member of the Clippers.
On the other side, Dallas got great contributions from not only Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler as mentioned, but also from Monta Ellis, Charlie Villanueva, JJ Barea, and Devin Harris. Ellis finished with 14 points but the other three hit shot after shot from deep and carved the Clippers up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Those three combined to score 49 points on 19-for-30 shooting and hit 7 threes. Richard Jefferson also chipped in with two threes of his own and 8 points. The Mavericks just made their shots while the Clippers could not keep pace due to a myriad of reasons. Over the final 36 minutes, Dallas scored 108 points and shot 42-for-62 (67.7 percent) from the field while making 13 threes. At a certain point you just tip your hat and move on to the next one.
The Clippers, offensively, did not play that poorly. The fact is that they shot 50 percent from the field and hit 12 threes. They only went to the free throw line 12 times but they also scored 40 points in the paint on 30 shots. To sum it up, the Clippers played well offensively despite the great defensive gameplan by Dallas to nullify Chris Paul. The breakdowns came defensively. Dallas hit shots. A lot of them. And a lot of them were with a defender in close proximity. But quite a few were with them wide open because of late rotations and poor defensive awareness. Fatigue could come into play there but excuses shouldn’t be used. It was just one of those nights. The Mavericks outplayed the Clippers. Simple as that. Dallas hit a blistering 67.4 percent on uncontested field goals and 53.7 percent on contested ones. Clippers shot 44.7 percent on uncontested field goals and 57.1 percent on contested ones.
The other main issue, besides defense, is that the Clippers could not keep Dallas off of the offensive glass for the majority of this game. Dallas had 4 offensive rebounds in the first quarter that they converted into 5 points. They then had 4 for 7 points in the second quarter. They ultimately finished the game with 12 offensive rebounds and 16 second chance points. Los Angeles got just 9 second chance points on their 11 offensive rebounds. Dallas also went +12 in the points off turnovers department despite each team turning the ball over 15 times. Dallas was able to survive the Clippers third quarter run, where the team cut it down to three points, thanks in large part to holding an 11-0 advantage in points off turnovers. Unfortunately, everything bounced the other way tonight for the Clippers. The team just has to regroup and focus on Sunday afternoon.
First, the bad news. The Clippers are just one-half-game up on Dallas for the 5-seed at this point in time and that’s because they’re one up in the loss column. The team is also tied with San Antonio, presently the 7-seed, in the loss column. They’re also two full games back in the loss column of Houston for the 4-seed and back down to four games back in the loss column of both Memphis and Portland, who are presently the second and third seeds. But, now, the good news. The daunting schedule is almost over and Blake Griffin appears like he might play on Sunday afternoon when the Rockets come into town. There is hope on the horizon for a team that has been surviving just on sheer heart lately.
The other good news is that they hold the tiebreakers over both Dallas and San Antonio should they be tied with either one of them at the end of the year. If the team can beat the Rockets on Sunday, they’ll own that tiebreaker outright while trimming a full game off Houston’s lead in the loss column. In short, the Clippers are fine. This is a loss you can live with considering the run they’ve been on and the teams they’ve beaten. With the schedule starting to lighten up, the Clippers are poised to make a good run to the finish line and set themselves up well for the playoffs. Health is still the most important thing. That’s all that matters at this point. The team will be ready for Sunday.