“No pictures on scorecards” is a golf saying that applies to the Clippers win tonight. The stats seem pretty benign, 13 turnovers for the Clippers and 16 for the Wolves, but it didn’t catch how disorganized each team played. Every bit of momentum seemed to be volatile and ephemeral, the Clippers earned a 16 point lead in the fourth quarter only to have the lead cut to a dangerously low 6 points on a Wayne Ellington three (after he had airballed one earlier). There were some bad turnovers, like when Webster picked Bledsoe’s pocket and went to the rim for the bucket and the foul, but instead of fretting over those, but the Clippers did hold on, making 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to beat the Wolves
Strangely, the Clippers played their best basketball in the third quarter. Playing 8 games in 11 days, it would have been no surprise to see the Clippers limp into the All Star Break with another tired loss. But the Clippers played with energy, and beat the Wolves by 9. On top of Blake’s beastly 11 points, former Wolves Foye and Gomes bouyed the Clippers in the third, scoring 13 of the Clips 29 points. A heartening trend, to be sure.
Playing along with the scattered game feel, here are some bullets:
• Chris Kaman made his return tonight with 4 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in 10 minutes of play. Nice to see blocked shots by the Clippers, who registered 9 against the Wolves (DeAndre 4, Kaman 3, Blake 1, Foye 1) and I’m hoping that Kaman’s return will spark DeAndre’s play like it did tonight. Kaman made a couple shots from that 12-15 foot range, and reminded that centers can leave the basket area to score. He still has the case of the double pumps, one resulted in a block by Darko and the other he was called for a travel as Martell Webster almost crushed his vertebrae, but Kaman was effective in his limited minutes.
• Eric Bledsoe is a mess of impressive moments and depressing ones. He led the team in rebounds (8) and steals (4) and, unfortunately, turnovers (4). I like how he perseveres through plays, none more evident than a fast break where he had the ball swatted away by Telfair mid jump, caught the ball, re-calibrated and made the layup. When he’s on, he’s amazing to watch, but he’s going to have to cut down on the moments that lead to his turnovers. Mid way through the fourth quarter Bledsoe had a fast break where he over penetrated and sent a terrible kick out pass to Kaman that was easily picked off. Bledsoe would have been so much better off just going to the rim and trying to draw the foul since he had already decided to take on the Wolves 1 on 3.
• Blake Griffin had one of his more balanced games. He notched 14 points and 4 rebounds in the first half and 15 points and 4 rebounds in the second half. He usually starts off so hot and then cools off in the second half, but tonight he shot very efficiently, mixing his transition dunks with perimeter shots. He even played well in the third, when the Clippers need him the most, scoring 11. He also had his most impressive block of the season when he blocked Telfair’s shot at the beginning of the fourth. Watching that play again, it’s a wonder that Blake doesn’t try to challenge more shots. Blake had great body control, and cleanly blocked it. If he would continue to have his head up on transition defense, he could get a lot more of those blocks. He also had a block attempt when he hit his head on the backboard, so maybe that’s why he doesn’t challenge shots.
• With the team playing better, it seemed that Baron had a timely let down game. He only scored 5 points on 2 for 10 shooting. I didn’t think his shot selection was terrible, he just looked out of sync, like he was worn from the trip. Where it manifested the most was his shot locations, as he rarely drove to the basket. Although Baron still had a big three as the Wolves were working their way back in the fourth.
This team has to be letting out a collective sigh as their eight game trip comes to an end for the All Star Break before they go out on the road for another three games right afterwards. Everyone is excited about Blake being an All Star and in the Dunk contest, but don’t forget that Bledsoe made the Rookie team and will play on Friday night.