Some games your team comes out hot, some games the other team comes out hot. If you watched the Warriors-Thunder game, sometimes both teams comes out hot! Well, this game was just about the opposite. Luckily, it was a tale of two halves for the injury riddled Clippers, who pulled out a gritty 100-93 win Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat.
First Quarter: After an encouraging first two possessions with Redick driving to the basket (one ending in a wide open layup, the other in a pair of free throws), the Clippers fell completely flat. The Heat were active: hustling for loose balls and offensive rebounds, and to no surprise, Paul Pierce was attacked early on. In fact, the first 3 field goals the Heat made were all against Pierce. First, Dragic had a nifty give and go to the basket. Deng followed up with a nice post shake to get an easy bucket, and finally, Chris Bosh took Pierce off the dribble straight to the hoop. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a pretty picture. The rebounding wasn’t any prettier, as the Heat were able to get 3 second chance opportunities in the first four and a half minutes alone. Luckily for the Clippers, the Heat seemed out of sorts, out of rhythm, and in general, pretty terrible on offense.
Second Quarter: Once again, the bench came in and added some well needed energy. Though Jamal started a bit off on his shot, Lance had another good outing (in this half, but more on this later), racking up 9 points by the end of the quarter. Everyone else though was pretty underwhelming. Chris Paul wasn’t able to connect on a single shot, Aldrich’s regression showed more than ever (aside from a nice pair of blocks he had on Bosh), and Redick wasn’t as effective as he usually is, though he was able to knock down a 3 right before the half. Shockingly, the Clippers went to the locker room up 1, which was more of a testament to how mediocre the Heat are offensively.
Third Quarter: The third quarter had better energy and the offense was in a much better rhythm. Chris Paul knocked down a couple of jumpers to get things going, just to be matched my some vintage Dwyane Wade. It was, however, an ugly quarter with the Clippers racking up foul after foul and a couple of DJ-hacks. The Clippers were able to pad their lead a little bit, and overall it was a much more positive quarter.
Fourth Quarter: The fourth was a roller coaster of a quarter, and it seemed like an adaptation of the classic movie; let’s call it The Bad, The Ugly, and The Good (and let me tell you, Thank God for the order of these adjectives). Let’s start off with the bad. After a sweet pass from Lance Stephenson, Cole Aldrich missed a point black layup. The very next play, Bosh took Aldrich off the step and Lance lazily blew off the rotation leading to a timeout and a very, very angry Doc. Unlike past games, Lance was left in. After some terrible plays where Lance was more or less ignored in the corner, which led to deep contested threes from Prigioni and Crawford, the Ugly came out. Lance’s attitude, body language, and effort was absolutely abysmal. That led to his benching, and the return of Point God and Redick. After some exchanging of baskets, Chris Paul sealed the game with back to back deep 3 balls.
Overall, it was a really gritty (and relatively ugly) game. There were a lot of fouls, a lot of open missed shots, and just not much entertainment until the end of the fourth. Days like this (especially matinee games for the Clippers) are going to happen, but what matters is that the Clippers pulled out a win.
My parting notes are going to be on Lance Stephenson. Look, I’m one of the biggest Lance supporters you’ll find. I think Mbah a Moute will be exposed in the playoffs, and Wes isn’t good enough at anything in particular to be a starter (and his energy off the bench is really great). At the end of the day, I hope Lance is starting… But not with this attitude. I understand his frustration. Rarely getting the ball only to see the possession end up in terrible shots is frustrating, but you can’t act like the way he did on the court. Overt clapping, pouting, and yelling on the offensive end and giving up on defense is unacceptable behavior. I think he has been looking great when given time, but he has to avoid that attitude. Anyways, have a great Superbowl Sunday everyone!