The L.A. Clippers dominated the Brooklyn Nets, utilizing nearly their entire available roster in the process. While the Clippers starters were the most instrumental in establishing dominance early-on at both ends of the floor, not a single one of them played beyond the 3rd quarter or more than 26 minutes in tonight’s game. Six Clippers scored in double-figures: Chris Paul with 21 points, Blake Griffin with 20 points, J.J. Redick with 18 points, Jamal Crawford with 17 points, and Raymond Felton and Luc Mbah a Moute with 11 points apiece.
The Nets, who ran coach Kenny Atkinson’s pace-and-space offense, lost big but not for lack of effort. With primary offensive weapons Brook Lopez (rest) and Jeremy Lin (hamstring) out for the night, the Nets were already at a disadvantage. Their front court lacks the physicality and athleticism to stop players like Griffin and Jordan consistently at either end of the floor. And their back court lacks the shooting depth and savvy to stop players like Paul and Redick at either end of the floor. Bojan Bogdanovic led all Nets players with 18 points, followed by Sean Kilpatrick and Chris McCullough with 14 and 13 points, respectively (who each played less than 20 minutes).
The 1st quarter was all about the Clippers; they outscored the Nets 39-14, playing their starting unit the vast majority of the quarter. The Clippers offense hummed beautifully, with every starter getting touches, but it was their smothering defense which led the charge. Despite lacking their strongest scorers tonight, Brooklyn pushed the tempo of the game and played with defensive intensity. But by the end of the quarter, the Clippers had held the Nets to 27.8 field goal percentage, 12.5 three-point percentage, and forced 6 turnovers.
During the 2nd quarter, the Nets showed some signs of life. While they began the quarter with a couple of poor possessions and a technical foul assessed to a loud and livid Atkinson, they improved progressively. Bogdanovic scored 11 of his game-total 18 points during this time; he presented a mismatch in size for the Clippers back court, and was able to capitalize off of miscommunication on switches, getting wide open lanes and easy layups. The Clippers bench, who played most of the quarter, had difficulties defending in transition and even allowed a Nets 10-0 scoring run midway through the quarter. But once the starters came back in the game to restore order, the Nets found themselves in trouble once again. Griffin was aggressive in the paint, while Paul and Redick remained threats from the perimeter. The last few minutes of the quarter featured Justin Hamilton’s third foul and a technical foul for Trevor Booker. Despite ending the first half with a respectable 47 points, the Nets gave up 71 Clippers points during that stretch.
Despite some defensive complacency by the Clippers during the 2nd quarter, they returned to full form to begin the half. The starters, who would eventually exit during the last few minutes of the quarter, never wavered in their defensive intensity the way they have during massive leads in the past. The Nets played with more defensive intensity and cohesion as well, but were still outscored 28-18. The highlight of the game (aside from the score) was the set of back-to-back possessions featuring thunderous dunks on Justin Hamilton by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The second unit closed out the quarter, and despite not scoring as plentifully as the starting unit, had excellent ball movement and improved upon their first half performance.
Raymond Felton, who was disappointed with his first-half defensive performance, kicked-off the final quarter with back-to-back inbound deflections. The second unit played well enough to maintain a solid lead, led by the scoring and floor vision of Crawford, Felton, and Marreese Speights. Rivers wasn’t much of a scoring factor as expected, given the pace of the game, but he did finish with 6 assists in 25 minutes played (5 of which occurred during the final quarter). We also witnessed the first points by rookie Diamond Stone, who entered the game with 7:57 remaining; he finished the game with 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block in just 8 minutes of play. And while the Nets never came close to recovering, there was a great scoring effort by McCullough, who scored all of his 13 points and 3 rebounds during the final quarter.
This Clippers team, who has had a difficult schedule to begin the season and has had rebounding issues every year of the Lob City era, has truly become a force to be reckoned with. They are far and away the league’s best defensive team thus far, have been one of the best rebounding teams, and their attack on the offensive end has been balanced and shows great promise. Combine all of that with the depth and unselfish play of this roster, and it’s easy to see why this already looks like the best Clippers team we’ve ever witnessed.
Up next: The Clippers will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Watch the game on ESPN or Fox Sports Prime Ticket, or listen on AM 570.