Come on! You can bring your green hat!
Eric Gordon scored 36 points, Blake “The Unicorn” Griffin and Ryan Gomes added 22 a piece, Baron Davis served out 12 assists and the rest of the Clippers rode out the momentum to beat the Timberwolves and win the Clippers third game in a row for the first time this season. Yes. At this point you can safely say that the Clippers have a win streak.
What made this game so much better than the two road wins was the explosion of Eric Gordon while starting Baron Davis and still keeping Blake Griffin a central component on the offense. I’m not going to deny that Baron still took some miserable shots, including an airball out of a time out right after he had just winged a pass to Jarron Collins and taken an ugly three, but those mistakes are worth it if Baron runs the offense as smoothly as he did tonight (finished with 12 assists).
Eric Gordon finally blended what Clipper fans knew about him from before this season (dead eye spot up shooting) along with what he’s evolved into during the beginning of this season (dribble penetration, increased number of assists).
While Baron wasn’t directly assisting Eric Gordon as much as others, all seven of Blake’s assists went to Eric, he did provide the the ball movement that allowed for the spacing for EJ to fire away. For the second game in a row, Baron went right to Blake for a wake-up call alley-oop and then dumped it down to DeAndre Jordan for another dunk. When Baron is at his passing best, he’s more than just himself, he’s an inclusive weapon that forces all the defenders to be honest, even on the offensively challenged players like DeAndre Jordan and, to a lesser degree, Ryan Gomes.
And if the defense has to be wary of those players, then Eric Gordon will be able to score much more easily, because he’s a great one on one player. Back off him, he’ll make a three, get too close and he’ll herky-jerk his way to the rim for either a dunk, lay-up or a foul.
Not to mention what Blake will do with some room to play.
Baron and Blake like space.
And while the alley-oops, dunks, threes and other offense related highlights are great, the Clippers continue to show improvements on defense. After giving up 58 points in the first half, largely due to pace, the Clippers held the Timberwolves to 32 points in the second half, 11 points in the fourth. That second half total is only one point more than what the Wolves scored in the first quarter. These Clippers are learning.
The strongest defensive metric that led to the win was a simple one, one that was a huge worry coming into the game: rebounding. Kevin Love is an absolute beast on the glass, averaging almost 16 rebounds per game on the year. While he did still get 10 rebounds, the Clippers held the Wolves team as a whole to 26 rebounds in the game. It’s not too uncommon for Kevin Love to pull down that many on his own, and yet the Wolves couldn’t grab more than 26 total. The Clippers pulled down 16 more rebounds than the Wolves, that’s a dominating advantage, with 7 more offensive rebounds.
What’s odd, is that it has taken the Clippers this long to have games like this. While I knew that the team would have turnover and shooting percentage problems, I thought that they would be very good to dominant on the glass from the start. The Clips majorly upgraded their rebounding at small forward by signing Ryan Gomes and drafting Al-Farouq Aminu. Then Kaman consistently averages 8-9 rebounds a game, DeAndre can sneak a board or two and Blake was one of the best rebounding big men in college, a trait that generally translates to the NBA.
However, the Clippers haven’t been able to take advantage like they did against the Wolves. Gomes and Butler are the only outliers, as they grabbed 10 and 5 boards, but Blake was under his norm with 10, DeAndre snatched a reasonable 9 and Aminu harnessed 7 of his own, in just 14 minutes of play (thus adding to my belief that he should play more, rebounding and threes, he’s completely worth it, even if it means that Blake will chew him out after a dumb play). This can be the strength of the Clippers defensive foundation, rebounding, because they don’t have enough good individual defenders yet to be a shutdown team. They can to continue to limit opponents second and third possessions like they did against the Wolves. They can win much more. They can keep streaking.