To paraphrase the great Ralph Lawler, it wouldn’t be a Clipper game if somebody didn’t get hurt. Incredibly, it was the seemingly uninjurable who finally succumbed.
Just over 18 minutes into what was shaping up to be a light romp inspired by the returns of Blake Griffin and Milos Teodosic, NBA iron man DeAndre Jordan landed awkwardly after a SPEC-TAC-U-LAR alley-oop dunk and never returned. The Clippers’ energy seemed to limp off the floor with their star big man.
Fortunately, despite having shocked the Warriors less than 24 hours and 90 miles prior, the Clippers mustered enough oomph from their fast-diminishing reserves to outlast the Sacramento Kings, 121-115.
It’s impossible to lay the turning point literally at DeAndre’s bent ankle — the Clippers had plenty of legitimate reasons for tiring as the game progressed. But it works conveniently within the narrative, as the LA lead was 12 at the time and only appeared to be growing. Plus, one could hardly blame them for being disheartened by yet another injury in this godforsaken season, especially to the one guy who is always available.
With DeAndre marshaling the defense, the Clippers walled off the paint from a Kings team short on shooting. Post-injury, the Kings rampaged, suddenly finding penetration an easier thing to come by without the NBA All-Defense center. Rookie point guard and lanky sprinter De’Aaron Fox shot through gaps while DeAndre-lite Willie Cauley-Stein skied for alley-oops. It took a furious Clipper rally to restore the lead to 12 by the half, although you’ll note from the box score that the 43-39 second quarter was productive for both squads.
Lou Williams (#NBAVOTE) looked like he’d spent the past day scoring all over the team hotel, because he stepped off the bus and onto the court with his hands still smoking from last night’s 50-pointer. He dropped 21 in the first half en route to his third straight 30-point game, although we’ll address his fourth-quarter struggle momentarily.
The Kings’ third-quarter climb back into contention began with a knee, namely Tyrone Wallace’s, and an introduction, with George Hill’s crotch. The veteran point guard, who has looked unhappy throughout his brief Sacramento tenure, responded with one of his best games in the state’s capital, more than doubling his season average with 21 points. He keyed runs in both of the game’s final frames while using his long-armed defense to harass Lou Williams into working at an obscene rate. (Lesson learned: DON’T KICK GEORGE HILL IN THE BALLS.)
The Clippers didn’t help matters, getting sloppier as the game wore on. Doc’s team coughed the rock up 13 times in the second half after a stingy four-turnover opening half.
Doc also lost Lou’s hot hand. Williams scored just a single basket in the fourth quarter, watching shot after shot rattle in then out, although that one bucket was a biggie. With 40-something seconds remaining, Williams drove right and dropped in a fallaway that would constitute a prayer for mere mortals. The shot effectively ended a stretch in which both teams traded points, extending the lead to three.
But the most impactful — and disjointed — play of the game came after the shot clock went dark. Two George Hill free throws cut the Clippers’ lead to two, and, well, I’ll let the play-by-play take it from there:
0:15 Lou Williams bad pass (Kosta Koufos steals)
0:10 Kosta Koufos bad pass (Tyrone Wallace steals)
0:10 Tyrone Wallace makes 1-foot dunk
Got that? After being swarmed during the backcourt inbounding play, Lou heaved the ball up-court where it found the Kings’ center.
But, in keeping with the theme of the season, the Clippers’ next-man-up executed. Wallace, in just his fourth-ever NBA game, headily ripped the ball away and dunked home the win. He played 37 minutes after being named to the starting five, and while he failed to score in double-digits for the first time, his contributions were crucial to the Clippers’ eke-it-out victory.
Another game, another injury, another once anonymous player making a name for himself.
The Clippers go for a four-game season sweep of the Kings on Saturday night at STAPLES Center.
- Blake Griffin tallied 18/12 with six assists in his return from a concussion. Milos scored 10 with nine assists, eight of which he handed out in the first half. Montrezl Harrell played 27 minutes in relief of DeAndre and scored a season-high 25 on 11-for-12 shooting. The man is a monster. (And a bit of a rebound thief, but we’ll let that slide.)
- Bogdan Bogdanovic led Sacramento with 22 points off the bench. Koufos had 14 and 14 rebounds, making nearly every little floater he took. Fox snuck in three steals, but scored just eight while earning a team-worst minus-17 rating. He’ll be fine though. He just needs some spacing.
- Kings Coach Dave Joerger’s rotation is nearly inverted. Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield earned the second- and third-most minutes while coming off the bench. Backup center Koufos also outplayed starter Cauley-Stein.