With Paul Pierce out resting, Doc Rivers went with Wesley Johnson as starter in his stead. This proved fortunate, as Wejo scored 9 first quarter points to help keep up with the 76ers, who came hot out of the gate. Nik Stauskas made a couple of threes off the bench, Jahlil Okafor was hitting midrange jumpers and shots in the post, and Nerlens Noel was active on the glass. The Clippers were scoring fine, but their poor defense kept the 76ers in the game, and they even had a five point lead in the late first. However, Austin Rivers drained a three pointer off a Cole Aldrich pass to beat the shot clock and give the Clips the lead, and they never looked back.
The first part of the second quarter belonged to Austin and Cole, who repeatedly found himself open on pick and rolls and made Philly pay. The 76ers focused on getting Okafor the ball, and he responded by scoring or drawing fouls on Cole, forcing him out of the game at the 8:37 mark. This just meant it was Austin's time to shine, and he made several midrange jumpers to increase the Clippers lead to seven. That's when Chris Paul came back into the game and started destroying the 76ers defense on DeAndre Jordan pick and rolls. The two of them scored or assisted every point from the 5:26 mark onwards, including two thunderous dunks. Meanwhile, Philly started doing what it does best on the offensive end: missing shots. All this culminated in a 24-12 run to end the half, putting the good guys up 69-52.
The third quarter went much the same way as the second, with the 76ers unable to stop the CP3-DJ pick and roll. Lob dunks, threes for Wes and JJ, and even a nice layup for Luc followed on almost every Clipper possession. The lead only expanded a little bit due to the efforts of Okafor, who made four straight shots of increasing difficulty. Once the Jahlil well dried up, the entire 76ers offense did as well, and the Clippers pulled farther and farther ahead. The bench subbing in late in the quarter did nothing to stem the flood, as Lance Stephenson (!!!) made a couple of tough jumpers to join in the party.
The fourth quarter was essentially garbage time notable for a few things. First, Austin Rivers went off, scoring 14 points including a couple deep bombs, pushing him to a season high 26. Second, Brendan Dawson saw seven minutes of action and scored his first NBA basket (hopefully of many) on a nice little drive. Congrats Brendan! Finally, Josh Smith saw some time at last, but looked hesitant and made no impact, missing his only two shots.
CP3 Bounces Back: While Chris had another off night shooting the ball (4-15), he completely dominated the game in the second and third quarters, racking up 14 assists to only two turnovers in only 26 minutes. His touch will return, but it is just so much fun to watch him work the offense, especially with DeAndre.
DeAndre Jordan Destroys Rim: DJ had himself a game on the offensive end, going for 22 and 13 on 9-10 shooting. Of those 9 baskets, approximately all were huge rim smashing dunks that brought the Staples Center crowd to its feet. While his defense on Okafor and Noel was a bit suspect at times, he more than made up for it on the other end.
Bench Continues to Look Sharp: Austin Rivers continues to shoot lights out, and while it is a trend that almost certainly won't last, it is amazing to watch right now. The Pablo Prigioni-Cole Aldrich pick and roll never ceases to amaze in its simplicity and ability to get consistent open looks on the offensive end. This in turn leads to more controlled and efficient Jamal Crawford outings (13 points on six shots), as he is free to spot up and attack close outs instead of creating from scratch. Due to Pierce sitting out, Lance was thrust into the rotation, and he did just fine, going for 7/4/3 in his 19 minutes and playing within the offense most of the time. Hopefully he gets more spot minutes to keep him engaged and ready to go.
JJ Redick: This is getting ridiculous. JJ hit 4-5 of his three pointers tonight, raising his season average to a bit over 49%. This is a special season we are witnessing folks. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Jahlil Okafor: I have been underwhelmed by Okafor so far this season and wasn't a huge fan of his coming out of Duke regardless. He demonstrated both sides of the coin tonight, scoring effortlessly on one end and giving up a layup and dunk line on the other. His offense isn't super efficient but should improve with time. One just has to hope his defense does as well, or his potential is very limited.
Thoughts on the 76ers as a Whole: I have watched bits and pieces of a bunch of their games this season, but this is the only time I have sat through an entire game. It is just brutal. They simply don't have NBA level talent up and down their roster, especially on the offensive end. I understand tanking, but this almost seems a step too far. There have been countless arguments over the years about the value of "winning cultures" and veteran teachers in regards to the effectiveness of tanking and the development of young players, and this 76ers team would be a good case test. This is the third year of hopeless losing with no end in sight, and it just has to be wearing on the organization and players.
The Road Ahead: The Clips don't play again until Wednesday when they arrive in Portland to face the Trailblazers. Damian Lillard will probably be back for that game, and the Blazers are always strong at home, so the Clips will need to bring it. After that is a solid five game home stretch against a medley of teams, none of whom are complete pushovers. However, none of them are contenders either. The Clippers therefore have a decent shot at winning all of these upcoming contests, which would add up to a very nice 12 game win streak. Fingers are crossed, but the hot shooting of Redick and the far improved bench play has me hopeful for the New Year.