The Clippers came out of the gates looking good, particularly DeAndre Jordan. They were moving the ball well on offense, playing active defense, and generally appearing to be a superior team to the Knicks. They held a lead for the 1st quarter, and the bench kept up the energy of the starters when they checked in. However, the second quarter was far less favorable to the Clippers. Their defense fell off, and the Knicks were able to get whatever shots they wanted, leading to a 35 point explosion by them in the period. The Clippers actually trailed by three heading into halftime, and definitely looked in need of a rousing speech.
Whatever happened during halftime, it worked, as the Clippers immediately appeared to be more aggressive and confident coming out of the break. They swarmed the Knicks on defense, worked themselves free on offense, and quickly opened up a double digit lead. Austin Rivers hit four three balls in the period, DJ continued his dominance around the basket, and the Knicks slowly fell apart. The Clippers carried a 17 point lead into the 4th quarter, where a similar energy carried over. This time it was Lou and Montrezl Harrell who were the drivers for the Clippers, and the Knicks showed little ability or care to stop them. The last half of the 4th was extended garbage time.
· DeAndre Jordan Monster Performance: With Avery Bradley and Danilo Gallinari out, the Clippers need excellent performances from DJ seemingly every night the rest of the way. And tonight, they got one, as he played one of his best games as a Clipper. DJ had 19 points (9-11 shooting), 20 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in just 25 minutes, and his defense against the Knicks was impressive. Simply, he was by far the best player on the court, and controlled the game at both ends. If the Clippers are to make the playoffs, they need this from DJ on a more consistent basis.
· Tyrone Wallace Needs to be Signed: CJ Williams is a solid player. He’s very competent, and doesn’t make many mistakes. Sindarius Thornwell is a tenacious defender, bringing energy every time he steps on the court. But neither is as versatile on Ty on either end of the court. Wallace is a better ball-handler, passer, and finisher than either of them, and his length and quickness enables him to guard more players. While the Clippers’ main goal is probably to keep him longterm (he’s a restricted free agent this summer), it would be very nice to have him down the stretch.
· Everyone Chips In: While DJ was the standout performer, the Clippers also got excellent performances from Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, Montrezl Harrell, and Austin Rivers. The role players all made positive impacts as well. Sam Dekker had his best game in a while (albeit mostly in the 4th quarter), Thornwell was a hound on defense, and Milos quietly orchestrated the offense. Wes and CJ, as they are wont to do, did the little things on the court. Even Boban got into the action in garbage time, much to the delight of the Staples Center crowd. With Gallinari out, the offensive load he would normally carry needs to be split amongst everyone else. Tonight, the Clippers answered the call.
· Lou to Montrezl Connection: I’m not sure a Lou-Trez pick and roll has ever had a bad result. The two have formed a dynamic and explosive chemistry on the play, and Lou has become a master at both the pocket and lob passes to Trez when he’s rolling to the rim. Harrell, for his part, has fantastic hands, and his screens free up Lou to help him create his own shot or momentum driving to the basket. They have each been special this season, and together are a force that not many NBA benches (or even starters, really) can deal with.
Great win for the Clippers after a nasty 2nd quarter, and the team had a great deal of fun in the 4th quarter. It was fantastic to see, with the starters sitting on the bench standing and cheering for the reserves, and the bench unit showing off their skills and athleticism.