Remember when people kept saying the Clippers weren't fun to watch anymore?
Having gone from Lob City media darlings with the arrival of CP3, the Clippers have tried their best to ditch the moniker and trade style for substance, and most importantly for wins. Tonight was one of the rare occasions this season when the Clippers were able to combine both personas, getting the win while charming the crowd with their high-wire acrobatics. Someone must've told the Clipper players that they were filming scenes for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie at the game, because they seemed intent on putting on a show. While some blowouts can be boring, though this game was over by halftime, it continued to entertain through the rest of the third; it's not often that one can say that a 31 point victory doesn't capture how thoroughly outmatched the opponent was.
In the preview, for this game, I called it a business game. Going up against the worst team in the league, there could be no room for excuses or an unexpected loss with each game having great importance for playoff seeding, and thus the Clippers simply needed to take care of business. As for how they lived up to my expectations? I would call it a little more business casual. From the outset, it was clear the Clippers were able to get any shot they wanted on the offensive end, leading to a stunning foray of monster jams off fast break dunks and alley oops. But it also lead to a little bit of sloppiness as the Clippers sometimes overpassed trying to make the highlight play or get everyone involved. Blake attempted to recreate the Mozgov dunk about three times tonight to no avail and Chris Paul had an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers trying to make the fancy assist. Despite all of this, the Clippers still had plenty of highlights, with DJ almost filling ESPN's Top Plays himself. Being guarded by Lou Amundson for a majority of the game, DeAndre simply seemed like a man among boys. DJ had 6 emphatic, "MONSTER JAMS" throughout the game whether off of alley oops, fast breaks, or posterizing Jason Smith avenging Blake Griffin. Going along with his above the rim acrobatics, DJ also blocked 5 shots and snared 10 rebounds, all in 28 minutes of play.
In keeping with outstanding Clipper performances, it's difficult to pick out any one player. Chris Paul had an amazing double double of 11 points and 16 assists in 28 minutes and Barnes continued his hot streak hitting 3 from deep. Watching Redick in the last couple of games seems like examining a fine piece of art as he dizzies defenses with his deft off ball movement and supreme confidence that he's accidentally been stuck on NBA JAM's fire mode, scoring 17 points tonight on 6 of 9 shooting. Incredibly, all of the starters were over 30 in +/- for the game.Even the bench performed reasonably well with Austin Rivers ending up as the game high scorer going 9-10 scoring 21 points. Spenser Hawes even inspired a little bit of confidence as he made a couple of shots, but most importantly made definitive moves without hesitation to score. (I so badly wanted Hawes to have a terrific game so I could say he played hawesomely).
On the other side of the ball, defensively the Clippers seem like they should get a lot of credit any time you can hold an opponent to sub 30% shooting and scoring only 54 points through 3 quarters, but honestly I'm not quite sure if it was good defense by the Clippers or just tragically horrible offense by the Knicks. At times, the Clippers seemed to dial up the defensive pressure and suffocate the Knicks getting steals and easy fast break points, and at other times the Knicks just made idiotic passes and unforced errors in turning the ball over. It wasn't until garbage time in the fourth that any Knick outside of Cleanthony Early and occasionally Ricky Ledo was able to take the lid off the basket and make a shot. Without Carmelo Anthony the Knicks have been the worst offense in the league, and that was painfully on display tonight.
This was a game the Clippers had to win to keep pace in the standings and put pressure on the other Western Conference teams ahead of them tonight. (As I'm writing this Houston won, Memphis lost, and Portland is losing to the Jazz at the end of the 3rd) Los Angeles simply had too much talent for the overmatched Knicks squad, and were able to blow them out with style, earning their starters some extra rest. This same type of game is needed Friday as the Clippers continue their road trip and win streak against the 76ers.
A Few Ending Notes:
No one needed to watch the 4th quarter, as it was just filled with end of the bench guys getting some reps in front of thousands of people. If you did watch however, some interesting notes was that CJ Wilcox continues to look like an NBA player with a fast release and silky jumper and Jordan Hamilton was running point for the Clippers, showing more ball handling and play making than I expected.
Lastly, though Blake had a few big highlight plays, overall he didn't look good tonight. He shot 3 for 8 overall with two of his field goals being dunks and the other being a layup. When he got the ball in the post, he was constantly bothered by Bargnani's length and was ineffective in any move he tried. Blake doesn't look 100% healthy yet, and part of that seemed to be a lack of strength to bully and move people in the post like he normally does, but he said he should be fully back by next Tuesday against Golden State. A couple more games like this can help him shake the rust off.