Games where you don’t trail are quite interesting because they can take many forms. A team can just skate by the entire night by building a decent lead then holding on after the opposition makes run after run, or they can just steadily increase their lead all night, or they can even do what the Los Angeles Clippers did tonight, which was get out to a solid lead, get threatened once or twice, then push it back up into the stratosphere. The New York Knicks just could not get their offense going, and the Clippers benefited greatly as their own offense sunk shot after shot, dunk after dunk, and generally bewitched the Knicks all night long en route to the Clippers’ 28th win of the season.
After getting off to a dodgy start on the individual shooting front, Chris Paul dominated the third quarter that seemed to bring him close to the Point God moniker that he’s honed over the years. Paul scored 14 of his 16 points in the third quarter, including 2-of-3 from deep. Besides those 16 points, Paul finished the game with 13 assists, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal. DeAndre Jordan also played well, finishing with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. All 7 of his field goals and field goal attempts were dunks, and that might be what have partially led to Robin Lopez losing his cool and throwing a hand across Paul’s mouth in the third quarter, which ended in Lopez getting ejected.
J.J. Redick finished 7 points, but only took 6 shots. He knocked down half of his field goals and half of his threes (1-of-2). Wesley Johnson finished with 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field, including 4-of-4 from three. Jamal Crawford (4-of-9) and Paul Pierce (5-of-10) each finished with 13 points. Luc Mbah a Moute had 4 points, but did a great job defensively all night when matched up one-on-one against Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. The bench, as a whole, did a decent job tonight. There was a moment in the second where they let the lead trickle down to low single digits, but they pushed it back to about 11 or so by the time the starters checked back in. That’s what they need to do. They don’t need to outplay the opposition. They just need to keep pace with them. Cole Aldrich had 12 points and 5 rebounds, Austin Rivers had 6 points, 3 assists, and 1 rebound, Pablo Prigioni had 7 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals, C.J. Wilcox had 4 points on 2 shots, and Lance Stephenson finished with 1 rebound and 1 assist on 0-of-2 shooting in his return to his hometown.
Speaking of Anthony, he finished with only 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting. He did have 6 assists and 4 rebounds, though. Mbah a Moute just seemed to give Anthony fits all night long by poking the ball away on post-ups, and just contesting everything he did. Sensational rookie Kristaps Porzingis didn’t have a great night shooting the ball. He finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds on just 4-of-17 shooting. Robin Lopez had just 6 points and 7 rebounds on 3-of-11 before getting ejected for slapping Chris Paul in the face. He didn’t have a good night, even if you overlook that moment. Lopez was constantly attacked in pick-and-rolls by the Clippers that usually ended in lob dunks for Jordan.
Arron Afflalo had one of his worst games of the year, totaling just 5 points on 1-of-5 shooting. While he did a decent job chasing Redick around, he didn’t get engaged offensively. Everything got bogged down, and he just never showed up. Jose Calderon had 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, but he was no match for Paul, and Calderon’s turnstile defense is truly a sight to behold. Derrick Williams had 9 points and 7 rebounds while Kyle O’Quinn had 4 points and 3 rebounds. Rookie Jerian Grant looked good in the final quarter of the game as he finished with 13 points on 4-of-6 while having 8 assists. Kevin Seraphin had 6 points, former Clipper great Sasha Vujacic went scoreless, and Lou Amundson had 2 points to round out the scoring.
The Clippers move to 28-15 on the season, which, hilariously enough, is the most wins Wesley Johnson has ever experienced during a single season in his NBA career. The previous career-high was 27 wins. So, Wesley’s now a full-fledged winner! The team will try to beat the storm that’s battering the east coast now, and they’ll head north to play against the Toronto Raptors for their only trip out of the country during this year’s regular season. This was a really nice win tonight, no ifs ands or buts about it. Second night of a back-to-back, facing a team with legitimate talent, and they never trailed while winning comfortably. A 116-88 win is nothing to sneeze at. Got to love it. Onto the next one.