I wasn’t sure if I should write this recap or not.
I’ve been particularly mindful of superstition in the last few weeks, as the Clippers’ current 9-game losing streak began with the first game of the season that I was unable to see—and continued through the second, third, fourth, and fifth such games, consecutively (while I was travelling). When I was finally back home and able to catch a game, it was a close loss to the 76ers. I only saw the first half of the Clippers’ game against the Cavaliers, when they were tied at halftime but ultimately lost in overtime. And I saw their two worst performances of the season, back-to-back blowout losses in Charlotte and New York. During that stretch, Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari were both injured.
I’m pretty sure it was my fault for missing those games. Before I went to Vermont during the first weekend of November, the Clippers were 5-2. Heading into Thanksgiving, they’re now 6-11, with Patrick Beverley out for the remainder of the season.
So, when some outside circumstances (nothing major) made me unable to write the preview for tonight’s game or post a game thread, and then the Clippers were playing well early, I had to abstain from joining the conversation on twitter or posting the thread late. Once the game, and the Clippers’ losing streak, were over, I put off writing the recap. Ultimately, it had to be done. Hopefully this doesn’t spark another losing streak.
At least, for right now, the last losing streak is over. Coming off of a miserable 22-point drubbing by the New York Knicks, and just hours after learning that their starting point guard, Patrick Beverley, would miss the remainder of the season, the Clippers were able to put together a victorious performance against the lowly Atlanta Hawks. Blake Griffin led the way with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, while Wesley Johnson exploded for 24 points on 6-7 three-point shooting. While this is obviously a hot night for Wes, it would be huge for the team if he could consistently shoot with the same volume and confidence that was evident in his play tonight.
The rest of the starting lineup all contributed nicely as well, with DeAndre Jordan posting 14 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks, helping to boost a defense that largely struggled. In their first game starting together, Austin Rivers and Lou Williams seemed to mutually benefit from the others’ presence, with Austin contributing 18 points and 5 assists on 7-12 shooting while Lou added 20 points and 8 assists on 7-15 shooting. Lou is the kind of player that creates, takes, and makes difficult shots, so his performance isn’t normally dependent upon the team around him—Austin, however, has really struggled recently as the only ball-handling guard in the lineup, so introducing Lou may be an important factor in Austin’s improved performance tonight.
Doc Rivers kept a 10-man rotation, playing rookie guards Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, and C.J. Williams off of the bench, along with Sam Dekker and Willie Reed. None of the bench guys gave particularly noteworthy performances, although Evans and Dekker both showed some encouraging flashes that could point to their ability to stay in the rotation long-term, even as Milos Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari eventually return from injury at their respective positions.
The Clippers shot a phenomenal 15-30 from deep, which typically points towards victory. It will be key for them to continue to improve, as that shooting performance is unsustainable and was led by a particularly unsustainable night from Wesley Johnson. The team defense left a lot to be desired in the first half tonight, allowing 63 first-half points to a bottom-third offensive team. Wes missed a lot of baseline rotations and Blake Griffin was routinely beat when attempting to contain ball handlers on the pick-and-roll. Both of those problems will only be exacerbated against better teams over the course of the season.
For now, though, the Clippers can rest easy knowing that they finally got back in the win column. The next four games (@Sacramento, vs Lakers, vs Utah, @ Dallas) present an opportunity to build some momentum leading towards Gallinari’s return and a much tougher December schedule.