I am not going to go into a detailed game flow on this one, since there really wasn’t a rhythm of any kind, and the outcome didn’t mean all that much to the Clippers. Here are some pertinent details about the game, however.
Blake Griffin Returns: Yes, Blake finally came back tonight. How did he look? Well, he played like a guy who hasn’t played NBA basketball for several months. Some of his post moves were a bit stiff, and he bobbled the ball a few times, but overall he performed fairly admirably. He had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, and converted a signature lob dunk from Chris Paul. He has a lot of work to do to get back up to speed, but six games (Doc says he will rest one of those six, however) will hopefully be enough for him to at least regain his wind and overall awareness. The good news is that his mobility was surprisingly up to par, which means maybe his lingering tear isn’t that bad.
Chris Paul is Awesome: Yes, yes, we all know that CP3 is great. But today he hit one of those gears where he just dominates, and the game was in the palm of his hand from start to finish. He ended with 27 points and 12 assists on 19 shots and only 2 turnovers. More importantly, he hit the big shot every time the Clippers needed one, including an absolute dagger of a 3 pointer with 22 seconds left to push the lead to six. He imposed superb defense on John Wall, forcing him into a nightmare of a performance (until Wall hit 3 three pointers in the waning minutes), and thoroughly outplaying him at every turn. There was simply no stopping him in this one.
DeAndre Jordan Has Up and Down Game: DJ was mostly terrific. He had a 12/12 line in 35 minutes, threw in a couple blocks and steals, and was the energy boost that pushed the Clippers towards victory in the mid-3rd quarter. Unfortunately, he was also 2-11 from the free throw line, and his inability to hit one when the Wizards went to Hack-a-DJ in the late 4th quarter got the Wizards back into it. After several months of better shooting from the line, DJ reverted to his old self tonight, and it was not pretty. Let’s just hope it was an aberration and not some sort of weird correlation with Blake’s return. DJ also twisted his ankle towards the end of the 1st half, but he started the 3rd quarter and showed no real signs of injury. He should be good going forward.
Bench Plays Well: Just about everyone on the Clippers played well today to some extent outside of poor Wes Johnson (1-6 from the field and 0-2 from 3), including their much maligned bench unit. To be fair, the Wizards reserves are among the worst in the league, but it was still a nice showing. Jamal Crawford hit his "Jamal shots" today, nailing several long three balls off the dribble that had the crowd going crazy. Austin Rivers made some nice plays and did his usual thing on defense, and Cole Aldrich contributed nicely as well. Jeff Green was mostly invisible in this one, but that could have been partially due to an injured finger sustained in the 3rd quarter.
Wizards’ Backcourt Struggles: Bradley Beal, the second leading scorer on the Wiz, scored just 8 points and shot a truly awful 2-16 from the field. John Wall was little better, putting up 15 points on 5-14 shooting. As stated earlier, however, nine of those points came on desperation threes towards the end of the game. While the Clippers played good defense on them, both guards missed quite a few easy looks, and it was fortunate for the Clippers that both were very, very off tonight.
Quick Look Around the NBA Right Now: The Houston Rockets pulled off a comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder, thus ensuring that the Mavericks gained no ground with their victory over the Timberwolves. It looks like the Rockets will make the playoffs, though a first round date with the Spurs or Warriors doesn’t really sound better than getting a higher draft pick. The Grizzlies are currently tangled with the Magic in Orlando, and really need this win to hold off the incoming Trailblazers, though Portland is in Golden State tonight and it is highly unlikely the Warriors lose twice in a row at home. Stay tuned for those results, as the Clippers are going to face one of those two teams in the first round.
Road Ahead: The Clippers have six games left, and clinched home court advantage with their win today. Of those six contests, only one looks to be truly challenging (away at Utah on Friday). The others will be perfect to ease Blake back in against some easier opponents, and maybe run more plays for him than were called today. The Clips do have an outside shot at the 3rd seed, but it would be very tough to pull off, and seeding won’t matter in the 1st round anyway (because the battle for 5 and 6 is so close). It is probable that Doc rests some of the starters in at least a couple of these games so that they are ready to go come playoffs, and cedes the 3rd spot (and potential matchup against the Spurs rather than Warriors in the 2nd round) to the Thunder.
Ralph Lawler Is Awarded: It is always great to see voice of the Clippers and absolute legend Ralph Lawler get rewarded for his years behind the mic, and today he got the media entrance room of the Staples Center named after him. A small reward yes, but Ralph was having none of it, insisting that coverage return to "what actually matters". He is simply fantastic. Hopefully the Clippers can pull off a nice playoff run for him.