An interesting one tonight, as the number of Maccabi fans in Staples Center severely outnumbered Clipper fans. The biggest cheers came on Maccabi scoring plays and during timeouts. Mike Dunleavy said it didn’t surprise him, joking both before and after the game that he would go by “Don Levy” tonight to appeal to the decidedly-Jewish crowd.
Speaking of the game, the highlights were pretty much all Blake Griffin dunks and an electric full-court Griffin-to-Ricky Davis-to-Eric Gordon slam in the first quarter. Maccabi played hard but simply didn’t shoot well enough — 44% compared to the Clippers’ 55%, although Dunleavy seemed to think the biggest difference between the two teams was Maccabi’s size deficiencies.
The first half highlight:
- [2nd, 00:01] Rasual Butler hits a three to cap a 9-0 run and give the Clippers a 53-42 lead at the half after Maccabi pushed it as close as 44-42. Both teams came out sloppy in the first quarter but the Clippers pulled away after the run, on the strength of 14 second-half points from Chris Kaman, 11 from Sebastian Telfair, and eight from Blake Griffin. Said Dunleavy: “At the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter we were able to stretch it out and get a decent lead, start taking advantage of our size in the low post. I thought Chris [Kaman] offensively in the second half gave us a big lift, controlling the paint a little bit.”
Other stories to take away from tonight:
- Griffin’s final line: 6-of-7 shooting for 13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and only one turnover.
- Sebastian Telfair was on his game in his return from a hamstring injury and just his second game as a Clipper. He started the game, playing the first and third quarters at the point while Baron Davis played the second and most of the fourth. It didn’t start well, as Telfair put up the Clippers’ first two shots of the game — both misses — and turned the ball over twice in the first five minutes. But he turned it around, establishing himself at the free-throw line and finishing the game with a 15-point, seven-assist line to go along with four turnovers. Telfair said he thought of his performance as “a pretty good one, considering that I didn’t get fatigued like I thought I would get. I think I was in a lot better shape than I thought I was gonna be with not playing the last couple games.” Said Dunleavy: “He looked good out there. Early on, he was a little rusty from having been out for a while, but overall, he made some nice plays and was efficient shooting the ball. He was able to get our big guys some easy buckets on some nice passes as well.”
- Butler showed exactly how he can be useful tonight, making 5-of-9 from the field and playing 21 minutes while not turning the ball over. Funny thing is, although Butler took the second-most shots on the team — behind only Kaman, who went 8-of-13 from the field for 18 points — it didn’t seem like it at all. He pretty much only took shots as a third or fourth option on offense, something the team could really benefit from this season from its small forward spot with four other scorers likely to take the court. “Rasual’s a skilled player,” Dunleavy said. “His skills off the dribble and passing the ball have been good for the mix of guys we’ve had in there.”
- Davis said the team’s still finding its identity. “Most importantly, we’re finding ourselves. It’s gonna take some time during the season, but the most important thing is if we can continue to play at a high level and with a high energy, then I think we’re going to figure everything out.”
- Maccabi was largely impressive, especially in the first half. Guard Doron Perkins came off the bench to put up a triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists, and 12 rebounds. Former South Carolina standout Chuck Eidson scored 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting, and former Knicks second-round pick Maciej Lampe put up nine points and four rebounds. Said Dunleavy: “They played hard, they moved the basketball well, they cut hard. They’ve got some guys who shoot the ball well and guys who know their roles.”