The first half was probably the ugliest half of basketball I’ve seen this season (the Philadelphia game included). Other than the infallible Point God Chris Paul, and (shockingly) the streaky Jeff Green, the Clippers were absolutely terrible. Until nearly the 2-minute mark of the first quarter, the only Clipper to have scored was Chris Paul, who had the first 12.
The starting group was lackadaisical on defense, and completely lost on offense. JJ Redick didn’t seem to know how to dribble, much less shoot, and Blake Griffin looked as timid as he’s looked since coming back from his injury. The bench came in with much-needed energy and stepped up defensively by forcing a bevy of turnovers, and Jeff Green (I know, right?) knocked down a pair of threes somehow keeping the Clippers in this ugly affair. But nothing could go right for the Clippers, who again failed to control the glass, allowing 9 offensive rebounds in the first half alone. The ugliest half of basketball ended with the Clippers trailing by only 4, and happy to get to the intermission.
And somehow, the first half was nothing compared to the second half, in terms of pure torture for Clipper fans.
The third quarter started with more of the same ugly basketball, with both teams keeping their field goal percentages hovering around 35%, while generally playing nonsensical jungle ball that bears no further description. It was a frustrating game, but it was still just frustrating. Then the unthinkable happened: not one, but two of the Clipper stars were sidelined, not just for the game, but perhaps for the remainder of the series. The game went from frustrating to downright terrifying.
Late in the third quarter, Chris Paul blocked a driving layup by Gerald Henderson and (after being healthy all year) got his right hand caught on Henderson’s shorts. As of this evening, the injury’s been diagnosed with a fractured hand—specifically the third metacarpal, if that even matters. And early in the fourth quarter Blake Griffin was headed to the locker room before sideline reports informed us that his injured quad was feeling sore. The night seemed over with almost a full quarter left to play. Clipper fans were given a glimmer of hope when Blake tried to enter the game again, but a few hobbled possessions later and an obvious grimace after a routine jump-shot confirmed that Blake was done for the night---and that his injured quad was going to be a persistent problem.
I suppose if anything should be called out in this game, it’s that former Clipper Al-Farouq Aminu had a career night, draining 6 three-pointers for the first time in his career. That’s it. Because there’s really nothing else interesting to discuss. The Clippers played terribly and were put out of their misery by losing both of their stars to injury.
Steph Curry’s injury seemed to open a door to the Western Conference Finals for the Clippers, the favorites in this first-round playoff matchup. And then as if part of some cruel joke, Chris Paul’s injury closed that door right up (and opened a window for Portland). It’s just the way these things go, and as a fan, all I can tell myself is that there’s nothing we could have done. The Clippers weren’t supposed to make it past the Warriors to begin with, so let’s just pretend no one got hurt, and we’re still in that world.
For any new fans, welcome to the hell that is Clipper Fandom. Trust me, you’ll be stronger because of it in the long run. Mostly.