Should the Clippers have blown the Kings out? Should the Clippers have lost? Was it just right? Yes to all of those. The Clippers oscillated between looking terrible, like coherent team and like a team just good enough to beat the Kings. On the whole the Clippers are still just good enough to beat a terrible team like the Kings.
The Clips had a lead as big as 17 in the third quarter and they still managed to give all of it away and even trail the Kings by as many as 4 points with less than three minutes in the game. The scourge of turnovers in the third and fourth quarters, the surprise bench contribution from Pooh Jeter (11 points in 17 minutes? Really?) and the push from Omri Casspi (who had more fans than both teams tonight) were the reasons that the Kings fought themselves all the way back. While the effort was there the whole night for the Clippers, the inconsistency of execution and the lack of focus wavered mightily.
They played their best basketball in the second and third quarter despite having a relatively quiet night from Blake. Blake did have another double double. But the second leading scorer on the team was Ryan Gomes. He was refreshingly efficient, reminding Clippers fans why he was signed in the first place. He even scored the first 6 points of the second quarter to spark the Clippers run. They went from down 20-16 to up 22-20 in the matter of 2 minutes. And it’s not like he stopped there. He finished the night with 17 points, on 7 for 12 shooting and a timely three with 1:29 left in the third quarter to put the Clippers back up 14. And his most impressive play didn’t even count, he made a 60 foot heave just after the buzzer in the first half. Still, his energy set the tone for the Clippers’ play.
Even when the Clippers were in the process of giving it away they continued to hustle and get production from their players. In the fourth quarter when the Kings whittled the lead down to 4 (after a particularly ugly Rasual airball), the Clippers came back with a huge dunk from DeAndre with a put-back jam. Despite the slipping, there was an unbridled ferocity to the Clippers. Sure it may have been the reason that they lost the lead, their turnovers and shot attempts rapidly turned forced and rushed. Aggression is not a good emotion to gear shots unless it’s dunks. But they ran with it all the way through.
That lawless energy did make the game feel more emotional than it was. After Omri tied the game (with the huge ovation, in part due to the “A Night for Israel” fans) and then Tyreke sunk a three, the lead was only 4 but due to the wildness of the play it seemed so far out of reach. Until they completely switched it around. Gordon made some go-to-guy plays down the stretch that included the game tying layup and knocking down a 3 to extend the lead to 3.
From there it was just a free-throw fest, but think about that turnaround. The Clippers were down 4 with only 2:36 and they ended up winning by 7. That’s an 11 point turn around. It just felt frenzied the whole time. The Clippers did end up winning the game, but that uncontrolled play is the reason why they struggle on the road. I’d rather have it that way than lethargic, because discipline is easier to teach than effort, but the Clippers will have to learn to play more consistently if they are going to beat teams that aren’t as wild as they are.
– DeAndre’s defense is improving. He still frustratingly swats the ball into oblivion (like the Karch Kiraly spike to half court in the first), but the transition defense he played on Pooh Jeter in the fourth quarter was something I haven’t seen from him before. He established good position, kept his arms straight up, backed up and forced Jeter to take a tough shot. If that was as recent as last year, he would have done one of two things: get quickly whistled for a charging foul or try for the amazing block and get called for a foul. Either way, DeAndre mucks that one up with the opportunity for a three point play.
– Baron Davis left the game with a sore hamstring. Too bad, he had 8 assists in 20 minutes. I didn’t like that he had 8 shots in those 20 minutes (made only 2, eesh), but if that’s what the Clips have to suffer through to get that kind of passing, it’s an overall plus.
– Eric Bledsoe played well down the stretch. Baron left midway through the fourth with the Clippers up 4 (or 2, Bledsoe came in when Jeter was shooting 2 FTs). Down the stretch Bledsoe grabbed a rebound and dished out 2 assists without turning the ball over and sinking two free throws in the last minute. Quite an improvement for the rookie over his implosion last night. Good to see that resiliency.
– I don’t like the minutes trend for Aminu. In the last 4 games he’s only averaged 15.5 minutes despite being the best 3 point shooter on the team. When Gomes plays like tonight (17 points in 29 minutes), I understand, but I can’t believe that Rasual helps the team more than Aminu. And Rasual got 23 minutes to Aminu’s 18.
– I got to sit next to Bill Walton for the first and fourth quarters. How was the experience? Let’s go to Walton voice: “That was the greatest NBA viewing experience that Breene Murphy has ever had! The Majesty! The elder Walton repeatedly spouted the most glorious hyperbole! He compared the illustrious career of Omri Casspi to the legendary Doctor Julius Erving and enraptured Breene Murphy and Eric Pincus with his wise witticisms and witty wisdoms!”