So thorough was the Clippers’ 99-84 victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks in this final pre-All-Star game that this writer felt compelled to pull the game storylines at random. Let’s spin The Wheel O’ Clipper Dominance:
Spin #1: Oh three, oh my. The final statline (14-37 3PT, 37.8%) wasn’t eye-popping, but the start sure was. The Clippers sank 10 of their first 20 three-point attempts in support of a 14-point halftime lead. They cooled off eventually -- how could they not? — but not before eight (count ‘em, EIGHT) Clippers hit from deep. J.J. Redick led all players with five three-point makes accounting for all 15 of his points. Blake Griffin even joined the fun, sinking one from the top of the arc.
The Hawks, in comparison, clanked 19 of their 26 (27%) three-point attempts. Recent hot hand Tim Hardaway Jr. was Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s latest victim, struggling his way to a tepid 11 points. The junior Hardaway had been averaging better than 20 per game in February.
Spin #2: Blake Griffin, the All-Star that isn’t. Blake heads into his second consecutive All-Star weekend with an actual break, but it can’t be blamed on his recent play. His fabulous February continued with 17/5/9 and two blocks. But tonight’s totals do little justice to the overall quality of his play, his shooting statistics (6 for 15) depressed by the number of possessions in which he bailed out stymied teammates with his own last-second heaves.
With Chris Paul still out, Blake carried the load as the centerpiece of most of Doc Rivers’ offensive actions. The game looked slow to him. His control of the team’s tempo was apparent on every possession. Blake never looked hurried or out of ideas. He picked apart the league’s fifth-most efficient defense with little trouble. His body may need the long weekend’s break, but his game doesn’t.
Spin #3: Re-D-scovered. The defense is back. Mostly, at least. After an intensely focused first possession, the Clippers’ defense flagged for stretches of the first quarter but found its full flow by a second quarter that LA won 33-18. The Hawks shot 40.5% overall, with its top-leading scorers, Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder, combining to make just 8 of 27 field goal attempts. Schroder was aggressive, particularly in the second half as his teammates began contemplating their vacation plans, but the sprightly point guard found little outside of the midrange in leading Atlanta with a meager 15 points.
The Clippers also harried the Hawks into 23 turnovers on 18 steals, although turnovers (16) were something of a bugaboo for the home team as well. Dwight Howard pulled down 5 of his 15 rebounds on the offensive glass, one of few blemishes on the Clippers’ attractive defensive night.
More from the game:
- Marreese Speights finished 0-4 from deep, ending his 28-game streak with a made three-pointer, a run that began on December 18th.
- DeAndre Jordan (7 points, 16 rebounds, 2 steals) basically matched the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard’s (11 and 15), but his overall play was superior. The two will be compared for their defensive prowess, but it’s on offense where DeAndre really separates himself. He continued to show off his IMMENSELY improved low-post game with a silky drop-step hook with his weak hand.
- Speaking of Dwight, the big center signaled his team’s surrender with an ill-advised corner three a mere five minutes into the third quarter. This game quickly became a leisurely scrimmage thereafter.
- Wes Johnson and Ray Felton, who used his big behind to fend off bigger defenders Chris Paul-style, both scored in double-digits in reserve and added four steals apiece.
- 25 players logged minutes tonight: 12 Clippers and all 13 Hawks. Atlanta rookie DeAndre Bembry played eight minutes, the FEWEST of any Hawk. Paul Pierce was the sole Clipper to sit out the whole thing. Even Diamond Stone saw the bright lights for three minutes. Bring on the vacation.