Before last night’s game, there was still hope that Eric Gordon would play. Anyone that has watched the Clippers play this seasons knows that he’s a huge reason for the development of the team. He’s not just a 24 point per game scorer, he scores those points when the Clippers need to stop the opposing team’s momentum or if the Clippers need to sustain their own, frequently in the second half or down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Without Gordon, the Clippers chances of beating the Mavericks were severely diminished.
But there wasn’t the lingering doubt that Gordon was going to miss a lot of time, maybe he would miss only one game, maybe it would be better to have him rest this mini two game road trip and get ready for the behemoth roadie that starts with Atlanta next week? Instead, Eric Gordon will be out 3 to 4 weeks and those slim hopes that the Clippers could overcome the long odds for a playoff spot seem so much slimmer. The Clippers need poise and versatility to win on the road and Eric Gordon is their best option with both.
To make matters worse, Blake had his most serious injury scare last night since the recent Minnesota game. Beating Brendan Haywood off the low block, Blake charged to the rack only to have Brendan Haywood grab his arm as Blake was in the air, sending BG hard to the ground.
I don’t think it was cheap but frankly I’d rather have Lamar’s cheap shot on Blake than what Blake had to face in the flow of the game with Haywood. But Lamar also wasn’t endangering Blake. Also, I’d rather have a strong reaction from the team when the Haywood foul happens than when Lamar got chippy.
Even with the acknowledgement of it not being a dirty play, Haywood’s post-game comments stuck with me.
“No, that’s not a flagrant foul. I feel the NBA should give my money back for that one,” Haywood said. “It was one of those plays; I just grabbed his arm. He’s just so athletic and strong that he was still trying to finish the play and he ends up basically not protecting himself.”
Flagrant fouls aren’t always because the play was dirty, but because there was excessive force that puts the health of the players at risk. So I’m okay with the call. What has really gotten me about the hard fouls on Blake Griffin this year, have been how often they have come from behind, when Blake is blind and the contact awkwardly contorts Blake.
I’m not sure how those types of fouls can be prevented for Blake, outside of him completely changing his game. I don’t like Haywood shoving the blame to Blake on this play, because Blake absolutely blew by Haywood and was in the midst of taking off when Haywood fouled him. At that point, what was Blake supposed to do? Anticipate the grab from behind? No matter what, if Blake is being grabbed from behind, it’s going to throw him into flailing crash.
Rewatching that play, I struggle to find a sense of clarity from it because it didn’t look like a dirty play, Brendan was laying a hard, smart foul on Blake. Hard fouls are part of the NBA, and the flagrant fouls are part of the refereeing of the sport. But there is a line that needs to be drawn from the Clippers perspective, because they can’t have other teams injuring their own players the way that Haywood almost injured Blake and the way the Timberwolves and the Warriors injured Eric Gordon. It isn’t just about the single game, because one loss to Dallas or playing the Rockets undermanned are small in the larger scale of things, but this protection is necessary when it comes to the longterm success.
Keys to the Game:
- Defending Kevin Martin. Without EJ, the Rockets highly efficient shooting guard will be hard to contain. He can run curls off screens or create his own shot and whoever the Clippers stick on Martin (Foye, Rasual, Aminu maybe), they’ll have to be dogged in their pursuit.
- Big game from Griffin. The Rockets don’t have the size nor the athleticism to contend with Blake. Scola will be a tough cover on defense, but he can’t handle Blake on the other end. Chuck Hayes will frustrate despite being shorter than Ryan Gomes, but Blake needs to overcome that without his wingman EJ to balance out the scoring.
- Turnovers. I hate to keep harping on this, but last night was just another example of how important it is to control the ball. The Rockets are so efficient on offense that the Clippers can’t afford to cough up the ball, especially as they look to either maintain or create momentum in the second half.
Eric Gordon wrist/back, out
Chris Kaman left ankle, out
Craig Smith herniated disc, out
Yao Ming broken foot, out
Brad Miller day to day
Jared Jefferies day to day
Note: I’ll be on ESPN’s Daily Dime Live chatting tonight.
(The Clippers are in the Onion News)