The Bucks were in the process of fighting back. After building a double digit fourth quarter lead, the Clippers let former Clipper Corey Maggette muscle his way around for 6 of the Bucks 8 unanswered points. The Clippers nervously held onto a 96-92 lead with only a minute left, Randy Foye had just missed a three and it looked like the Bucks were going to have yet another opportunity to eat away at the Clippers lead if they would just get the rebound from Foye’s miss. Except a Clipper player launched himself through the air to secure an offensive rebound, giving the Clippers another shot clock. It was Baron Davis. He then dribbled the clock down, passed the ball out to Eric Gor, er, Randy Foye who then drilled the three, putting the Clippers up 99-92 with 42 seconds left and essentially giving the Clips the win, their ninth consecutive win at home.
I remembered that a few weeks ago Baron had the big dunk and then the sky for the board so I asked him if his knee was feeling better.
“Gotta keep working on my knee,” Baron said, “get it where I need it to be. But right now, it got me the offensive rebound and the victory, I’ll take it.”
He may have been a little coy with regard to the knee, but what was obvious was how happy Baron was.
However, as happy as Baron was to have that game punctuating rebound and assist, this game was more about the happiness, the jubilance. The Clippers played with enthusiasm as well as precision. The highlight plays set the tone. I know that sounds like a banal platitude, setting the tone, but there was a level of excitement that allowed the Clippers to surge when they needed. Just look at that monster slam by DeAndre at the top of the page.
It wasn’t just a random play, it was a go to alley-oop down the stretch of the third quarter, a quarter when the Clippers normally play poorly. It was just a simple pick and roll from the left corner, Bledsoe trying to free himself of Brandon Jennings. But Jennings tripped up going over DeAndre’s screen, forcing Brockman to slide over, and Bledsoe lofted the pass up, DeAndre leapt, Brockman slid over and DeAndre crushed the ball through the hoop and almost dunked Brockman’s beard off. The Clippers earned another two points by means of Blake free throws (6 for 6!) and finished the third on a 13-2 run in the last 3:47.
That end of quarter surge was impressive, because the Clippers did that in every quarter. After a typically strong first quarter, the Clippers lost the lead in the second quarter and the Clips went on an 8-4 run in the last 1:55. So if you combine it with the aforementioned fourth and third quarters, that’s a 9-6 run in the last 42 seconds of the game (with an 11-0 run around the six minute mark), 13-2 run in the last 3:47 of the third and 8-4 in the last 1:55 of the second. More than just excitement, those trends are the sign of a winning team. Those times are the most pressure packed, when the teams focus most closely and the Clippers stood out tonight. That’s a trend that the Clips need to make a, well, a trend.
Some highlights before more thoughts:
• DeAndre out-highlighted Blake tonight and played sound defense (blocking 5 shots). That dunk on Brockman was the most vicious dunk of the season for the Clippers, and I’m including the Mozgov dunk. But there were the others, the breakaway dunk, DeAndre was forced to put the ball on the floor (if only once) and he did that somewhat successfully for a dunk. He was all energy tonight, and it was a huge. Even the crowd recognized it, showering him with a standing ovation at the end of the third quarter.
• Blake was Blake again, and as incredible as his windmill dunk was, I’d take the six assists over chasing windmills every day. We don’t need to be Don Quixote’s here, or maybe we do, but the point is when Blake serves out 6 assists or more, the Clippers are 6-2. That’s a .750 winning percentage, which would be good enough for 62 wins over the course of the regular season. Too much to stretch those numbers, but I love his vision. It has suddenly exceeded his ball-handling as my favorite thing he does that doesn’t make the highlights. Blake also had an assortment of spin moves, including a what-would-be-awkward-for-any-other-big spinning shot over his right shoulder, over Bogut for the bucket and the foul. I was curious how the Bucks would handle him, because they have some elements that could be successful and some weaknesses, and they didn’t fare well at all. Blake finished with 32 points on 13 for 20 shooting from the field and 6 for 6 from the line. He tore down 11 boards, handed out 6 assists and had a steal. Great night.
• Randy Foye played another amazing game tonight. On top of making that game sealing dagger three, he scored 20 points on 6 for 13 shooting, 7 for 7 from the line and passed out 5 assists. I love that his confidence has skyrocketed and I hope that it will continue when EJ comes back (which might be sooner than we thought, EJ will travel with the team on the road trip).
• Clippers did a great job defending the three, only allowing 5 for 18 shooting from beyond the parabola. This was a perfect game for the Clips to get caught looking and allow the Bucks (and I thought Delfino would be a part of this) to scorch them. Instead they played great defense, and two of the five threes came off Jennings early in the game.
• How often do we talk about the free throw shooting? Not a problem tonight though, Clippers shot 25 for 27 from the line, good for 93 percent.
• The bench wasn’t as good tonight. Not that it’s a strength of the team, but there was some pretty terrible play, especially by Al-Farouq Aminu. He was a minus 11, which seemed generous considering he went 0 for 4, played bad defense and turned the ball over twice in 18 minutes. Not his finest stretch. Bledsoe played better, giving out 5 assists in his 16 minutes of play with only a single turnover. In fairness, it may have had something to do with VDN’s substitutions this game. At a point in the fourth quarter, the Clips trotted out Diogu-Cook-Aminu-Butler-Bledsoe. Not exactly a recipe for success.
The Clips have one last game at home, Wednesday against the Bulls, before they head out on the road for the massive road trip. Their spirits are high but the habits they’re exhibiting now need to carry over to the road.