We’re inside the final three minutes of the game. By all logic, the Clippers should be down 15-20 points. But they’re up five, despite having only eight guys dressed, one of whom is Cheikh Samb. This defies explanation…but it doesn’t really, because the Clippers have the guy on the floor, in Eric Gordon, who’s playing the best individual game.
How good is Gordon through the first three quarters? At [4th, 10:53], the Mavericks trap him on a high S/R more than 30 feet from the basket. Under pressure, Gordon has his pass deflected for a break, but the play’s overriding theme is more profound: The Mavericks’ defense deems Eric Gordon a guy who can hurt them from anywhere on the floor.
Gordon picks up his fifth foul at 7:54 in the fourth quarter. I fall squarely in the camp that says you don’t yank a guy who picks up his second personal foul in the first quarter. Here, I don’t object to Mike Dunleavy’s buying a few possessions with Eric Gordon protected on the bench. It works out fine. The Clips trail by one when EJ departs, and they trail by one a couple minutes later when he checks back in. The Mavericks proceed to trap and smother him, even when he’s set up on the weak side. Eric gets off only a single shot the rest of way, and that layup attempt is blocked.
Al Thornton puts together a 6-0 run to catapult the Clippers into a five-point lead. He converts a layup in transition, a double-pumping putback under the glass from an awkward angle, and a long jumper from just inside the arc up top when Brandon Bass plays off him a little, anticipating the dribble-drive.
The well goes dry from there, though I think every Clippers fan harbors a little tinge of fatalism any time the Clips have a lead in Dallas down the stretch. There’s little expectation of a win.
Dallas converts on three consecutive possessions of their own. The Clips play solid defense on the first two:
- [4th, 2:15] The defense deflects a pass that caroms around the scrum before ending up in Dirk’s hands beyond the arc. He sinks the 3PA.
- [4th, 0:51] Following a possession that forces Terry into a contested long-range J that he misses, the Mavericks convert the next trip down when Howard drains a tough baseline jumper from beyond 20 that brings Dallas to within a single point.
- [4th, 0:06.3] The dagger comes when the Clippers give up the switch on a high Jet-Dirk S/R. Terry inherits Camby on the perimeter, and the Mavs’ guard speeds by the Clippers’ big man en route to the hole.
The Clippers’ possessions during the stretch are fruitless. Thornton turns the ball over on a drive; EJ has his dribble-drive layup blocked by Nowitzki; On the game’s most crucial possession with the Clips down a point, Jason Kidd knocks the ball away from EJ, producing another turnover.
Despite the miscues in the game’s waning moments, it’s hard not to come away from this game with some measure of satisfaction. Maybe it’s that Dallas fatalism, but Gordon’s overall performance and team’s healthy offensive output [107.8 efficiency] compensate for the crappy resolution.
Another boffo stat line for Gordon: 32 points on 65% True Shooting. He racks up six assists against five turnovers. Three of the five turnovers occur in the fourth quarter, when the Mavs — and Jason Kidd specifically — tighten the vice defensively on EJ. Eric has a couple of new items for his to-do list. First, he’ll have to adapt to being the focal point of a team’s defensive scheme. Second, Gordon can improve his defense on the S/R against physical pick men like Erick Dampier [1st, 5:40; 1st, 4:39; 1st, 4:03]. He has the strength to fight through the screens rather effectively. Now he needs to develop the instincts to anticipate they’re coming.
Nice games for Mardy Collins and Brian Skinner. More times than not, 14 shot attempts by Mardy Collins will not serve the Clippers well, but tonight the shots fall. Skinner and DeAndre Jordan combine for 11 rebounds in 41 minutes, which help the Clips kill Dallas on the boards for a +10.