Steve Nash simply wouldn’t let the Suns falter tonight, carrying them down the stretch by answering nearly every Clippers score with a bucket of his own. The Clippers controlled this game in every sense of the word, but just couldn’t put Nash and the pesky Suns away. The fashion in which the Clippers lost was unquestionably heartbreaking, but resist the temptation to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Clippers played really well tonight, significantly better than the majority of their outings last year. Yes, chances presented themselves, particularly from the free throw line (15-27) and in the form of a few missed bunnies down the stretch, but this game felt more like Steve Nash taking over as opposed to the Clippers falling apart. Frankly, the Clippers didn’t do a whole lot wrong down the stretch – Nash was just a little bit better. Let’s take a quick glance at what went right and what went wrong tonight.
- Marcus Camby was a difference maker both offensively and defensively tonight. On defense Camby blocked shots from the weak side, dove after multiple loose balls, and disrupted passing lanes all night. His slingshot jumper from 19 was falling, and it proved useful in drawing out his man to let Baron work in the post.
- Baron Davis is still figuring out if he can trust his jumper, but his play overall tonight was outstanding. Baron’s post play began to demand double teams, and his distributing out of those coverages was top notch. There were a few moments (like the steal resulting in a three from the corner) where you could literally see Baron’s confidence growing. Defensively, Baron seemingly had his hands on everything, knocking loose a lot of balls and coming up with 5 steals on the game. Nash was perfect in the fourth quarter, but to no fault of Baron. He was in Nash’s jersey every step of the way.
- The offense has a whole hummed tonight in all facets of the game. Fans clamoring for the team to run more got their wish, as the Clippers outscored the Suns 16-2 in fast break points. The passing on the break was crisp, and the discipline by the wings in filling their lanes was outstanding. The halfcourt offense sometimes tends to stutter, but tonight Dunleavy’s post heavy game plan paid dividends, as the Clippers shot an incredible 55.8% from the field with a lot of those looks originating from the block.
- 15 for 27 from the free throw line. It’s a tired adage, but good teams knock ‘em down. Bad teams don’t. Don’t expect this to be a reoccurring theme however – the Clippers should normally be pretty solid from the line.
- DeAndre Jordan, zero minutes. Even though Kaman and Camby both enjoyed incredible individual games, you’d ideally like to see the young center get some playing time. The concern should be minimal here, as the healthy DNP for DeAndre should be a very rare occurrence. This does mark two straight games where Dunleavy has experimented with a small lineup to lackluster results. Against the Lakers, the Baron, Ricky Davis, Thornton, Butler and Kaman lineup struggled to mesh with each other. Tonight, it was Telfair, Rush, Thornton, Butler and Smith. This particular lineup quickly lost the first quarter lead the starters built, and Rush took the brunt of it with a -8 +/- in 3 minutes.
- The Suns bench players gave the Clippers reserves and starters trouble all night long. Dragic (+9), Clark, (+11), and Dudley (+12) provided big contributions for a Suns bench that is largely considered a question mark. The depth of this Clippers team is a strength, but tonight they were outworked handily.
The end result tonight was less than desirable, but if the Clippers can sustain the level of play seen tonight they’ll win these types of games more often than not. It’s a stretch to call this a fluky win for Phoenix, but the Suns truly were outplayed for the most part and were fortunate enough to be bailed out by some Steve Nash heroics. The Clippers next shot at redemption and first win will be Friday at Utah.