Game Summary: Much of the game was played at a fairly frenetic pace with seemingly constant fastbreaks. One of the enablers for that was blown dunks. At one point I think there were three or four missed dunks (or above the rim layups I suppose) in about a two minute stretch. Each team ended up shooting solid percentages from the field, but it seemed like most shots taken were completely bricked. The first half was controlled by the Clippers, who just looked like the better team for most of the half. Carmelo Anthony hit some shots for the Knicks, and Robin Lopez was snagging offensive rebounds and putbacks left and right, but their actual offense and defense looked disorganized and poorly executed. The only thing keeping them in the game was Clipper shot missing and poor defensive rebounding, though both of those issues seem to be more long-term maladies than game to game struggles at this point.
The Clippers extended their lead to 15 in the early stages of the 3rd quarter, but the Knicks "roared" back (they only scored 24 points in the period), once again led by Anthony and Lopez. Wesley Johnson and J.J. Redick continued to miss open looks, and the lead dwindled to low single digits. The Knicks finally tied it early on in the 4th on a Sasha Vujacic jumper. The Clippers starters came back early, and the Clips slowly pulled away again. To be honest, the game never really seemed in doubt, just because Chris Paul was the best player all evening and it was hard to believe he would let the Clippers lose. Every time the Knicks were close he would drain a three or find DJ under the basket or get the ball to JJ in his sweet spot. The Clippers finally put together a few complete possessions at the end of the game, converting on open looks and shutting the Knicks down on the other end. They would hold on to win 101-94.
Jeff Green Gets Time: With Blake Griffin, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Paul Pierce all out, the forward positions were very thin tonight for the Clips, and the result was Jeff Green earning 45 minutes. He played pretty well in the first half and had 15 points before the break, but then only put in two more the rest of the way. The other reason he played so much was that Wes was in foul trouble most of the game, and Green was the only real other option on Carmelo. He did a mostly admirable job on that end: he isn't the greatest defender, but he put in effort on Melo and made him work for looks. He even made a nice assist out of the post to hit an open 3 point shooter. All in all, perhaps his finest overall game as a Clipper.
Dual Big Lineup Is Played: Because of the thinness at the forward position (and the Clippers' lack of big men), Doc played Cole Aldrich and DeAndre Jordan together tonight. For substantial minutes. It was an intriguing tactic to cover the Clips' weakness on the glass, but it didn't really work. Two big men without range killed spacing on offense, and Cole was a hacking machine on the other end, fouling out in just 23 minutes. This lineup probably won't see daylight again: Pierce and Luc should be back soon, therefore eliminating any need for Cole to play the '4'.
Battle for the Boards: The Clippers once again had issues on the glass (leading to the above lineup), but this time were able to counter with a bunch of offensive rebounds of their own. Cole and DJ each snagged four, and the Clips got a few nice second chance buckets from them. However, Robin Lopez was absolutely everywhere on the boards, pulling down 10 offensive rebounds (and 19 total), many of which were easy putbacks. The Clips seemingly decided that the best defense was a good offense in this game, and instead of trying for defensive rebounds or boxing out went for boards on the other end. That is all well and good against the Knicks, but a team like the Spurs (or Thunder, obviously) will rip you apart on the boards to the point where victory is nigh impossible. The Clips need to sharpen up on the glass, Blake or no Blake.
When JJ's Shot is Off....: Redick ended up with a solid statline but was off for most of the night, and it was a horrible look for the Clippers. Obviously it is important he make shots: it was just scary to see how bad the overall shooting is when he isn't draining bombs and punishing defenses. Nobody else on the roster is a consistent threat from deep (CP can be, though that isn't his game), especially at any high volume. The Clippers actually shot well on the night (again, largely due to CP3), but teams just don't respect Jeff Green or Wes from out there (much less Luc). If the Clippers want to make any sort of noise in the playoffs, J.J. Redick must be "Bae Bae Redick" just about night in and night out.
Another Look at Kristaps: The big Latvian had an off night from the field, shooting just 6-17 and only grabbing four rebounds in 31 minutes. On the other hand, he pulled a legit crossover dribble on DJ, got to the hoop several times with some nifty looks, and made an incredible layup where he ducked under a defender. He needs to bulk up and improve his rebounding and shooting, but he can do things no other big man (outside of maybe Karl Anthony Towns in Minny) can do.
Upcoming Schedule: The Clippers have a brutal stretch ahead of them. They play at home against Cleveland for a Sunday matinee and then complete three games in four nights with a back to back in San Antonio and Houston. They have a nice break after that, then travel to Memphis and New Orleans. Finally, they play another back to back at Golden State (final matchup of the regular season) and home vs Portland. A 5-2 record in those seven games would be fantastic, and even 4-3 wouldn't be too bad. The biggest game will be beating Memphis just in case their incredibly odd hot streak threatens home court advantage and the 4 seed. Hopefully a win over San Antonio and/or Golden State can give the Clips some much needed confidence going into the playoffs, where a 2nd round matchup against one of those teams (if they win the 1st of course) is almost a certainty.