Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
Back in November the Clippers turned in their biggest stinker of the season, getting run off the Pacers home floor 107-80. They shot poorly from the field (33 percent, 22 percent from three) and they defended poorly (Pacers shot 50 percent from the field and 54 percent from the beyond the arc). But that Clippers team looked so different from the one that lost to the Pacers.
– Blake Griffin has had a double double in every game since that Pacers game. He logged 12 points and 8 rebounds then, but has averaged 24.6 points and 13.8 rebounds since. (Even if the steadiness of that production isn’t as even.)
– Eric Gordon has found his shot. He was largely going to the rim for his shots, but now, he’s shooting threes like everyone remembers, 14-33 in his last 5 games (42 percent).
– Return of Baron Davis, the good one. Since coming back Baron has turned into the table setter for the team, improving his shot selection (still not perfect) and even becoming feisty on occasion, just look at the game against the Lakers when Baron jumped in to scuffle with Lamar Odom and when Baron stood up to Zydrunas in the Heat game, Baron’s alive and kicking.
– DeAndre Jordan’s emergence. At the time of the first game against the Pacers, DeAndre was a center by default, but now he’s been playing really well of late, anchoring the defense and dunking all over opposing centers.
– Bledsoe and Aminu’s return to the bench combined with the decrease in minutes for Rasual Butler. ‘Sual played 20 minutes in the game against the Pacers but he hasn’t gotten off the pine recently, sitting in the last 7 games. He’s been largely inefficient and a reason for the Clippers then-stagnant offense. While Aminu isn’t shooting quite at the same clip that he was earlier in the year, the bench is stronger now.
All combined together and it’s no wonder that the Clippers are in a completely different place than the last matchup. Instead of 1-11 in recent play, the Clippers are 9-4 and learning, forming a unit and breaking bad habits. The next one to break: having let-down games.
Keys to the Game:
– Danny Granger v. Gordon. Not only is Granger a very good offensive option but his defense has improved mightily. In the last meeting, Eric Gordon lit up the Pacers for 11 first quarter points before Granger switched off of his natural matchup with Aminu and on to Gordon. EJ did finish with 19 points, but it was on 5 for 17 shooting, a large reason the Clippers were run off the floor. And then Granger’s the top option on offense, playing at a position that the Clippers have had a hard time guarding.
– Roy Hibbert. Like the Lakers’ Bynum, Hibbert is a strong low post presence with good shot-blocking capabilities. DJ is slightly shorter but he has the reach and athleticism to bother Hibbert. Being one of the only interior threats, stopping Hibbert is the best way to throw their offense off balance.
– Keep up the Intensity. The Clippers are 3-3 after big wins (Thunder, Hornets, Spurs, Bulls, Nuggets, Heat) and they just beat their in-house rivals for a huge win. It’s conceivable that the Clippers could let down for a 12:30 game the day after a big victory, but if they continue to learn from their mistakes over the course of the year, then they’ll play a focused game today.
Brian Cook right ankle, doubtful
Craig Smith herniated disc, out
Chris Kaman left ankle, out