The reason that the Clippers so desperately missed Eric Gordon was that he frequently provided big points down the stretch that prevented the Clippers from losing close games. Tonight, Randy Foye filled that role to perfection.
The Clippers played well for the majority of the game. They survived the Timofey Mozgov dunkfest in the first half by a white hot start from Ryan Gomes, DeAndre Jordan and Baron Davis. While Blake didn’t have his characteristic hot first half start, he was still good for 10 points and 4 rebounds. However, the honest truth was that there wasn’t too much defense played in the game (might have to strip the D from D’Antoni), and the Clippers thrived under the circumstances. They even extended the lead out in the third quarter, playing their best basketball before the Knicks began to chip away at the end of the third.
The Knicks wiped out all of the third quarter progress with free throws from Danilo and Toney Douglas as well as threes by Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton. And that 20 point lead that they had, it had withered to 10. The rowdy crowd in New York began to feel the change in momentum and the Clippers confidence was shaken.
The Knicks mounted a rally that came as close as 3 (at 99-96 and 101-98), but Randy was scorching the entire fourth quarter. He had already scored seven fourth quarter points before the 3:46 mark when he made a bomb of a three from the top of the key to stretch the lead back to 6 at 104-98. But he didn’t stop there, he scored another 7 points after that and his shots were tough. At 104-100, he took a DeAndre Jordan high screen and curled to his right, stepped back and buried a 21 footer. At 106-102 after another Amar’e bucket, DeAndre set another screen, just so Amar’e could switch onto Randy, but Randy didn’t attack, he stepped back and drilled a three with Amar’e’s hand right in front of his eyes. Every point that Amar’e scored, Randy answered. He had two more points on free throws to seal the game, and finish with 17 fourth quarter points.
Randy was better in the fourth than he was in entire games recently. In his first three games of the road trip, he’s averaged 10 points on 29.7 percent shooting. In the fourth quarter tonight, Foye had 17 points on 75 percent shooting. Obviously, those numbers can’t be counted on for any sort of consistency, but I like that he’s regained the same momentum that he had when Eric Gordon first went out.
Even with Foye’s effort, this game was by no means won solely on his back. The Clippers played well all around. Baron set the tone for the night by setting up the Clippers, he finished with 16 assists. Gomes made shots, DeAndre was finishing dunks, Blake was there, too. Baron never found himself out of control and even had the presence of mind to only take two three pointers with Ryan Gomes in the zone in the first and Randy Foye in the second. There was one particular play in the second quarter when Baron took a high screen from Blake, found himself open and even though he had just made a three, he passed it off to an even more open Ryan Gomes. That discipline is so refreshing to see from Baron.
Of course, it helps that Ryan Gomes played one of his best games offensively all season. He started out making his first 6 shots, and even though they were mostly open, those open shots have by no means been automatic for Gomes this year.
DeAndre returned to his strong play, finishing with 17 points on 8 for 9 shooting with 8 rebounds and a blocked shot. When he can use his athleticism to get by players like Mozgov, he’s lethal around the basket. He has long arms and good hands and can snatch anything out of the air to finish the alley-oop. I know he can be maddening some times, the fact that he allowed Mozgov to have 7 dunks in the game is upsetting, but DeAndre is young and getting better. He’s a really important part of the Clippers rebounding, and tonight they finally got back to out-rebounding their opponents.
The improved rebounding isn’t a surprise with the Knicks, they’re at the bottom of the league in rebounding rate (25th in the NBA), but it was a collective effort on the glass by the Clippers tonight. The Clips didn’t have Blake give them one lump sum to build upon. Blake only had 6 rebounds, despite only fighting Timofey Mozgov and Amar’e for the boards. He did have one huge offensive rebound in the fourth that led to the Randy Foye three, but it was DeAndre and Eric Bledsoe who led the team with 8 rebounds a game.
Bledsoe, like the 5 starters, had a very effective game tonight. He used his energy to get shots as well as grab 8 rebounds. There were many plays that showed how indispensable he could become. He had a hesitation scoop layup in the second quarter, a scramble for the loose ball, buried two threes and even when he missed a shot off the side the of the backboard he quickly ripped it and tipped it to DeAndre for the easiest of hoops. Bledsoe isn’t perfect, but his relentlessness and athleticism will pay serious dividends.
With the starters and Bledsoe playing so well tonight, it allowed Vinny to take a page out of From’Antoni’s playbook and keep a short rotation. Ike and Aminu played some forgettable minutes, but for the most part the Clippers didn’t need a long bench. It was an interesting tactic on the second night of a back to back, but it worked. Not to worry, Gordon will return and (allegedly) Kaman will as well, so the Clippers won’t have to fret about their short bench for too long.