Today was not a good day for the Los Angeles Clippers.
It was not a good day for their players. It was not a good day for their staff. It was not a good day for their fans.
Thankfully, tonight saw better fortune for the Clippers' organization than the prior 72 hours, which started with Blake Griffin punching an equipment manager Saturday night, continued with a season-worst 18-point loss to Toronto Sunday, and climaxed with the news breaking of Griffin's incident in the middle of the night, leading to a Tuesday of chaos and speculation as the Clippers confirmed that Blake will miss 4-6 additional weeks with a broken hand from the punching incident.
Tonight, the Clippers came away with one of their best wins of the season on paper: on the road, in Indiana, without Blake Griffin. In context, the adversity of the last few days, and the fatigue from the team's current road trip, might make this win even more impressive.
Despite a slow start, the Clippers actually managed a well-rounded effort to pull off this victory, including a quick 9-0 spurt by the second unit near the end of the first quarter which brought a 23-14 deficit to a tie. Wes Johnson shot the ball spectacularly, finishing with 15 points in 20 minutes on 5-6 from beyond the three-point arc. Pablo Prigioni was his usual solid self in 13 minutes of play, and in the 4th quarter even got minutes alongside Chris Paul in some interesting new offensive sets.
Austin Rivers' stat line was unspectacular, but aside from a solid game on paper, Rivers' defense on Paul George in the fourth quarter was a large part of the Clippers' ability to hold Indiana scoreless through the opening 6 minutes of the final period. After that, it was a great, close game down the stretch: Paul George hit a three to bring the score to 82-79 with 5:11 left, and neither team let up from there. Three big shots from Chris Paul accounted for 7 of the Clippers' final 9 points, and late threes from George Hill and Paul George kept the game within striking distance. However, with just seconds remaining, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute deflected an inbounds pass intended for Paul George, and the Clippers escaped with a victory.
Having already mentioned Wes Johnson's outstanding game, I ought to make note of the following notable performances:
- Chris Paul was the Point God, leading by example in his own words. He finished with 26 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.
- DeAndre Jordan pulled in 19 rebounds to accompany his 9-point, 3-block performance, singlehandedly making the rebound battle close tonight. He put forth a lot of effort on the glass, keeping a lot of plays alive offensively with multiple tips. DJ also played an insanely high 41 minutes tonight, which could make for more minutes from Cole Aldrich tomorrow night.
- J.J. Redick was somewhat cold tonight--so he only shot 4-10 from deep. As crazy as it sounds, he missed some really good looks tonight (and even a free throw!), but he's still such a threat that his pump fakes have become deadly at fooling defenders as they close out.
- Paul George is insanely good. Why didn't the Clippers draft this Clippers fan from Palmdale? We'll keep asking, and we'll never know. 31 points and 11 rebounds for George, including some really big shots down the stretch to keep Indiana in this game.
- Myles Turner had an outstanding first half, scoring 16 points to lead all scorers, but hardly got off of the bench in the second half. Turner is a 9-point-per-game scorer who has averaged 19.6 points a night in recent games with increased minutes, and the Clippers should consider themselves lucky to have not been part of his coming out party.