This was a fun contest against a tough, well-coached Nets team, and the Clippers surprisingly pulled out the victory after trailing most of the game. The Clippers looked disorganized and a bit sleepy out of the gate, losing Allen Crabbe for two threes, and then surrendering an easy offensive rebound and-one to Jarrett Allen. They started to get their offense going, generating easy looks time and again with the ball movement that has been their trademark. Unfortunately, while the defense stiffened a little after a horrendous start, the Nets continued to get wide open looks and bury them, even when the benches entered the game.
The Clippers had an even worse start to the second quarter. Their offense fell off, as Ed Davis bothered their shots inside, and the combination of Sindarius Thornwell and Ty Wallace cramped spacing. Doc Rivers was forced to bring his starters back when the Nets lead hit double-digits, and the energy finally got better. Doc went small with Mike Scott alongside Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari at the forward spots, and while the Nets did get some offensive boards, the ability to switch on the defensive perimeter made up for it. The Clippers were unable to get close, mostly because of their own missed shots and turnovers. However, Doc put in Jerome Robinson for one play at the end of the half, and he hit a big three.
The third quarter went much the same way. The Clippers would score, but a Nets three-point shot would always keep them at bay. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had to sit following his 5th foul (he wouldn’t reenter the game), followed shortly by Marcin Gortat after D’Angelo Russell hit an open three. Gortat’s refusal or inability to step up on the pick and roll was hampering the Clippers’ entire defense, and in one of Doc’s rare mistakes this game, he probably should have been taken out quite a bit earlier. Fortunately, Gallo and Tobias remained hot to keep the Clippers in the game, and then Montrezl Harrell started getting some looks inside. A couple turnovers late enabled the Nets to stay ahead, as spacing once again hampered the Clippers offensively.
Doc adjusted by leaving Jerome Robinson in the lineup instead of Ty Wallace, alongside the usual suspect of Harrell, Lou Williams, Mike Scott, and Sindarius Thornwell. While Robinson didn’t really do anything in his few minutes, he provided spacing for Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to go to work. And go to work they did, running repeated pick and rolls to great effect, and tying the game up at 99. While the Nets got Lawler’s Law, Lou drew a foul on a three and nailed all of them to give the Clippers their first lead. From there, Montrezl Harrell took over on defense, while Danilo Gallinari did on offense Harrell contested every Nets’ shot in the paint, forcing some horrendous misses, while Lou was able to draw smaller players onto Gallo, who was then able to finish. The Clippers’ lead slowly grew, and as the Nets grew desperate and ran out of steam, the Clippers’ defense stepped up, shutting down the last push by the Nets. The Clippers’ fight to hang in and then make that slow climb to victory was once again on display, even more impressive for it being on the road.
- Harrell huge in 4th: Montrezl Harrell had a slow start to this game. He was 1-3 in the first half, and looked tentative going up against the length and athleticism of Nets’ center Ed Davis. However, he came alive late in the 3rd with two and-ones (though he missed both free throws), and dominated the 4th quarter. Trez only scored 10 points in the period, but he went 4-5 from the field and made both free throws, making the most of his opportunities. It was on defense, however, that Trez made his mark. He contested three-point shots effectively, recovered when perimeter guys got the step on him (including an emphatic block on Russell), and provided excellent rim-protection. The Nets got nothing easy at the basket in the 4th, and that was mostly due to Trez. He was even able to keep Allen and Davis off the glass, a hard task. Just an incredible showing from him down the stretch.
- Tobias and Gallo have season highs: In the past few games, the Clippers have gone away from Tobias and Gallo a bit because the bench has been so good. Tonight, however, they were the only reliable sources of offense from the Clippers almost from the jump, and they responded beautifully. Gallinari poured in 28 points on just 14 shots, nailing 5 threes and hitting all of his free throws. He was the Clippers go-to guy down the stretch, and the Nets had no answer for him. Tobias Harris had 27 points on 17 shots, pouring in midrange shot after midrange shot. The Nets leave those looks open, and Tobias took advantage, not forcing anything, and taking what the defense gave him. He also had eight rebounds, including some big ones in traffic towards the end of the game. The 28 and 27 points were season highs for Gallo and Tobias respectively, and could not have come at a better time.
- Mike Scott, quietly excellent: Mike Scott has been absolutely terrific for the Clippers this season. He doesn’t play a ton of minutes, or put up big statlines, but he’s fit in like a glove on the Clippers’ second unit. Tonight, he got a bit more run than usual because of his defense and floor-spacing, and made the most of it, putting in nine points (on six shots), four rebounds, and two assists in 20 minutes. His defense was important to slowing the Nets in both the 2nd and 4th quarters, and he looked great alongside the Clippers’ starters. Just another steady, productive game for the veteran forward.
- Shai has another off night: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has probably had his worst two-game stretch of the season thus far. He only played 20 minutes in this one due to his five fouls, and generally didn’t play up to his usual standards. There’s not much to really worry about here for the long-term. He will commit less fouls as he gets more game-tape against NBA players, and figures out how the referees operate. All he needs to do is be a little less aggressive, especially on close-outs, and the foul problems should lessen. Meanwhile, he still looked good on offense, just missed a few shots that he normally makes. These tough games are part of the learning curve, and Shai should come out all the stronger for them.
The Clippers now have a day off before they play a back-to-back at Atlanta and Washington. With the way the Clippers are looking right now, both games should be a win, though the Wizards are so inconsistent that they can look like world-beaters on any given night.