Rock bottom comes up at the Clippers at [1st, 4:18] when Jamal Crawford hits an open 18-footer from the right side on a 4-on-2 break that caps a 19-2 run by the Warriors. The Clippers trail 25-11, and it’s the 13th consecutive quarter the Clippers have trailed by double-digits at some juncture. Golden State has scored on eight of its last nine possessions — on six of the eight, fewer than seven seconds expire from the shot clock. The Warriors are doing it all off Clipper turnovers and long misses. Meanwhile the Clippers slink back on defense as if Golden State might actually run a deliberate set.
The first quarter/beginning of the second is one of the few stretches this year we see Eric Gordon legitimately force shots and make stubborn decisions. His frustration begins when he beats Marco Belinelli with a nifty right-handed crossover dribble, but hits traffic en route to the hole and misses the layup. Eric looks for a whistle, but doesn’t get one. A minute later, he makes a lazy backcourt pass [1st, 7:56], something he doesn’t do with regularity. Toward the end of the quarter, he’s determined to get to the hole, even though Corey Maggette has bodied him up well. Eric picks up his dribble with Corey smothering him, but instead of passing out, Eric heaves up one of his worst shot attempts ot the season, a wild, flailing leaner over Maggette’s left shoulder. He follows his shot — normally a good instinct — but mauls Andris Biedrins in the process. A minute later, he meets Biedrins, who has solid position in the lane, then travels trying to get around him. When he misses another layup at the outset of the 2nd, Dunleavy gives him a rest.
It isn’t until you reflect upon this sequence that you realize how infrequent these spells are for Gordon, how steady his production is night-in-night-out. When he checks back into the game later in the 2nd, Eric finally gets a call on contact. After that, he reverses things by moving out to the arc, then steadies himself the rest of the evening with his 3PT shot. Most of the time, you see a guard who’s struggling from long distance adjust his game by going inside. Eric takes the opposite tack, and rightly so. He erases his 1-7 FGA, three-turnover start by hitting 8-10 FGA the rest of the way, including 6-7 from beyond the arc. Eric takes full advantage of a collapsing Golden State defense by running out to a spot on the perimeter [1st, 3:32; 3rd, 3:44], and by generally exploiting a negligent, gullible defense that overplays the middle and is slow to close. The result is a slew of clean looks for Gordon.
After waking up from their first quarter slumber, the Clippers play a solid defensive game, yielding a stingy Defensive Efficiency number of 97.7 to a squad that averages 106.3 nightly. The Clips begin to race back in transition. Though they don’t always stunt the Warriors’ breaks, they do well enough. An undersized unit of Baron-EJ-Jones-Collins-Randolph gives the Clippers quality defensive minutes. Baron is an energized as we’ve seen him, darting from paint to perimeter as the situation calls. He deflects a pass from Stephen Jackson that results in the Clippers’ prettiest break of the night [3rd, 7:09]: Eric pushes it up down the gut of the court, with Baron filling the left lane and Randolph the right. The pass goes to Baron, who drives inside, then delivers an ungodly pass under the basket to Randolph, who’s rumbling toward the hole on the right side. Easy slam for Randolph.
Baron’s best performance of the season warrants mentioning. Breezing through his 22 attempts from the field [a pair of those 22 get him to the line], I can’t say that his shot selection is all that distinguishable from his nightly repertoire, but he’s getting to the rack with greater ease, and his first step seems quicker. Baron also has his second-best game from beyond the arc this season [4-6]. With Camby on limited minutes and a squadron of guards running around for both teams, Davis seizes much of the rebounding duty for the Clippers, setting up shop on the weak side glass on Warrior misses. Baron plays with a gluttonous appetite for the game that infected NBA junkies who watched him during the halcyon days of 2007 for Golden State.
After hurting the Clippers at the outset, Zach Randolph gets warmed up when he re-enters the game in the 2nd period, drawing Anthony Randolph in the post. At this instance, Zach takes control of the right block, brutalizing his namesake inside, then executing mini-cuts to get a few feet of space just away from him [nice illustration at 2nd, 8:04 when Zach shifts underneath to the weak side, where Baron Davis finds him off penetration]. Don Nelson re-inserts Ronny Turiaf to deal with Z. Randolph, but Zach gives Turiaf — quality defender — a beating all night. When Randolph is not abusing him close in, he takes advantage of Turiaf a few steps off the block. When Turiaf collapses on Baron’s drives, Zach steps outside to 18, where Baron finds him [i.e. 3rd, 8:16].
Idle moment of the evening: The contestant on the Name that Clipper timeout feature almost misses the answer despite the fact there’s only a single jigsaw puzzle piece over said Clipper’s right cheek. The clues: Attended Syracuse, Drafted by Bucks in 2000, attended Inglewood HS, and played Pop Warner football with Baron Davis as a kid. The contestant stares at the near-complete mug of Hart on the big screen then, almost indignantly, shouts into the microphone, “Syra-cuse?!” He’s ultimately bailed out by some nearby fans who scream, “Jason Hart, numbnuts.” I may have made up the numbnuts part.
Second idle moment of the evening: Golden State always draws a ton of fans anywhere in the Western Conference. They’re knowledgeable, not at all obnoxious, and well-appointed with awesome threads like a Sharunas Marchulionis period warmup jacket or a vintage Rod Higgins jersey. Their team is historically unexceptional, but their people come out in droves. Coolest fan base in the league.