The Los Angeles Clippers were able to overcome a suboptimal effort to beat the Brooklyn Nets 105-95 Monday night. Chris Paul followed Friday's stellar 40-point showing with a tidy 23-point, 13-assist effort as LAC was able to avoid the disappointing upset. The 17-43 Nets showed some heart but ultimately weren't able to overcome the sizable talent discrepancy. But, really, this game was all about what happened at halftime when the Clippers unveiled their new mascot, Chuck the Condor.
The Clippers, as they've done quite a bit lately against inferior teams, came out flat on both ends of the floor. Brooklyn sped out to a 10-2 start on the back of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young who combined for seven of the first 10 points. LAC answered with a 10-2 run of their own, though, as Paul Pierce scored five straight against his former club. There was a frenetic pace to the beginning of this game, though both teams were struggling to convert. The teams essentially traded buckets for the remainder of the period. J.J. Redick got off to a fine start, going 4-for-4 from the stripe and 2-for-2 from three to lead L.A. with 10 in the first. After one, the Clips held a 29-27 lead.
Both teams rolled out all-bench groups to start the second, and neither was able to assert itself enough to gain any separation. Despite that classically questionable Jamal Crawford shot selection, Jamal got off to a hot start himself scoring a quick 12 on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 from long range. Unfortunately, no other reserve was really able to get going. Jeff Green, following a strong game last Friday, missed his first four shots. He'd finish with seven points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes of action.
Once again, the Clippers were playing down to the level of their opponent. The Nets weren't doing a whole lot of scoring, but LAC repeatedly missed chances to assert their will. Just before the break, though, a Redick longball capped a 15-4 Clipper run to give the home team a 52-46 advantage.
It was evident throughout the first half that the Clipper players were just distracted by the looming mascot unveiling. A condor!? Named Chuck!? TELL US MORE. The Clippers haven't had a mascot since this thing, so it's easy to see why there was so much anticipation:
Beyonce and Jay-Z were also sitting courtside, and they were obviously there to see the condor. And, man, were they in for a treat.
The impeccably-named "Chuck the Condor" (certainly a nod to Jamal) flew down from the rafters and revealed himself to the world. Helmet, kneepads, arm bands, No. 213 jersey, cheap cut-off sweatpants shorts and all. What's with all the padding? Does he ride motorcycles? Is all this protection a tribute to the Clips' dubious reputation as floppers? And why can't they give him shorts to match the jersey? It looks like he's wearing a frayed diaper. But one thing we do know is that Chuck can dab (via @FlyByKnite):
Y'ALL, THERE IS A PICTURE OF CHUCK DABBING pic.twitter.com/zwkvITqRKi— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) March 1, 2016
The halftime festivities were capped off with Steve Ballmer dunking off a trampoline, because CLIPPER NATION IS LIT, Y'ALL (h/t @TheCauldron):
Green got the start in place of the injured Luc Mbah a Moute in the third after LMAM left with an eyelid laceration late in the second. He didn't return, and Doc Rivers said afterward that he's doubtful to play Wednesday.
Both teams were so awestruck by the majestic mascot that the actual game continued to lack any sort of flow following the break. A 7-0 Brooklyn run capped by a Bojan Bogdanovic three-ball put the Nets back in front 70-69. Did I mention that the Clippers have a habit of playing down to teams like this? What had been a six-point Clipper lead was flipped into a six-point deficit after a Thad Young hook shot.
LAC was finally able to string something together after that, though, as they mounted a quick 10-0 surge - buoyed by Crawford - to close the frame to take an 81-79 lead into the fourth.
The fourth began with Wesley Johnson throwing the ball out of bounds, in case you needed an indication of how poorly the Clippers were playing in this game. On the bright side, the Nets cemented their status as an awful basketball team early in the frame. They turned the ball over three times in the fourth's first four minutes as the Clips were finally able to build a definitive lead at 87-80. Doc Rivers decided to bring Paul and Jordan back into the game early to try and put this one away.
Brooklyn's first FG of the quarter came on a Lopez flush just ahead of the halfway point, but LAC rallied to eventually push the lead up to 11 with another Crawford jumper with 3:12 to go. It was the Clippers' largest lead of the game to this point and the first time all night it seemed as though they had full control.
For the first time all game (Chuck the Condor NOT included), things finally got exciting following back-to-back alley-oops from Paul to Jordan that put Lawler's Law into effect. Lopez is a subpar defender and athlete, yet LAC hadn't really been able to take advantage of either until this point. An acrobatic, driving layup from CP3 effectively iced the game with about a minute to go, and the Clips capped off the 105-95 win with yet another D.J. lob.
The Clippers were able to sneak out of this game with a W, but it was far from convincing. The Nets are one of the league's bottom-feeders, but they showed good fight in sticking with L.A. throughout. This game was largely uneventful, so let's forget about that and watch one of the aforementioned DeAndre jams (via @TheCauldron):
D.J.'s head looks like it's at least half a foot above the rim, which is absurd.
The Clippers may have gotten away with doing a little looking ahead with the Thunder set to invade STAPLES Center in a couple of days. After that, LAC will face Atlanta, Dallas, OKC again, New York, Cleveland, San Antonio and Houston. That's quite the difficult schedule, and the Clippers were lucky to avoid the slip-up in this one. The defense was stellar, particularly in the second half, as the Nets shot just under 42% for the game.
Los Angeles was almost completely dependent on the backcourt offensively, with Crawford, Paul and Redick combining to score 68 points. Crawford led all scorers with 23 on 10-of-17 shooting from the field, while Brooklyn got a double-double (25 points, 10 boards) from Brook Lopez.
The Clippers (39-20) have now won 11 of the last 12 games against the Nets at STAPLES Center, and will continue the climb to the No. 3 seed in the West against the Thunder on Wednesday.