The Clippers usually aren’t the kind of team that gets fired up to play early weekend games. Their Saturday and Sunday matinees are usually sluggish, hard-to-watch tilts that tend to leave you wondering whether watching the game was worth it, even after a win.
That wasn’t the case today as they came out strong, riding a great first half to a comfortable double-digit victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The opportunity for revenge on the Lakers probably loomed large in the Clippers’ minds, giving them enough of a motivational edge to overcome the lethargy that normally plagues them in matinees.
DeAndre Jordan dominated the paint on both ends of the floor, putting up another monster 20-20 game against an inexperienced Lakers team that had no idea how to stop him and the Clips’ unceasing aerial assault. He ended up with nine dunks, even catching lobs from the likes of Alan Anderson and Austin Rivers. The Lakers entered this game as the worst defense in the league, and it was clear they had no idea how to rotate and communicate as a team on that end.
Meanwhile, the Clippers defense continued its January resurgence (thanks in part due to subpar offensive opposition), looking the best it has since early November. Led by Chris Paul and Raymond Felton, the guards hounded their marks and forced numerous Lakers turnovers, leading to easy transition opportunities.
Led by Rivers’ early scoring, the Clippers leapt out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter in spite of a few uncharacteristic turnovers from Chris Paul. Their defense stifled the Lakers, who only scored 8 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The bench picked up where the starters left off, increasing the lead with contributions from Felton and a red-hot Mo Speights. Jamal Crawford continued to struggle, shooting only 1-9 from the field and making even more terrible decisions than he’s usually prone to (the 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio doesn’t show you how many transition opportunities he created for the Lakers with his off-balance midrange pullups).
I understand why Doc continues to play him and urges him to keep shooting, but trying to get him opportunities to rediscover his rhythm is very different from empowering him to take terrible isos that neither benefit him nor the flow of the team’s offense. Luckily it hasn’t hurt the Clippers yet during this win streak, but unless something changes it seems bound to in one of their upcoming games.
Things continue to look up for the Clippers, who won their sixth straight game, their second-longest winning streak this season. Their next two games will both be national TNT showcases: the first against OKC on MLK Day (the nightcap to the Cavs-Warriors rematch) and the second against Minnesota, a team with much improved play recently. Neither win is guaranteed, but taking both home games would put them at 30-14 as they head into an extremely road-heavy stretch of the schedule.