Despite Randy Foye’s 32 points and 7 assists, the Clippers fell to the Boston Celtics. With the game close for the majority of the fourth quarter, looking for the reasons there would be understandable. There were plenty of missteps, Bledsoe turned the ball over repeatedly, the defense allowed consecutive back-breaking threes to Delonte West and a buzzer beater from Paul Pierce, the Clips couldn’t rebound the ball and they allowed the Celtics to shoot far too many free throws (11).
But the truth is that the Clippers lost this one, just like so many others, in the third quarter. According to Hoopsstats.com, the Clippers had won only one game and had lost a frightening 31 games when trailing after three quarters. There was one specific sequence that seemed to be the synecdoche for their failures. With just more than six minutes left in the third quarter, the Clippers had already given up the lead and then some. The Celtics had established a 3 point lead but the Clippers were fighting hard. Paul Pierce took a three that clanked off the rim and the rebound really should have gone to the Celtics, but Kaman touched it out, Bledsoe tipped it as well and then Aminu came down with it, magically. With Blake Griffin leaked out, Aminu flung the ball down the court only to pass it right to Ray Allen. Allen got it to Pierce who drew the foul and made both shots. Then Aminu was iso-ed on the wing, looking to take the ball to the hole and dribbled it out of bounds (without much pressure, mind you) and the Celtics got the ball to Pierce who made another pair of free throws. Bledsoe then brought the ball down, only to have Rondo it from him, drive the length of the court and lob it up for the KG slam. The Clippers played hard, harder than the Celtics, but they didn’t have the mental wherewithal to make a dent. They have so much exuberance and energy but they haven’t figured out how to harness it.
Even Blake Griffin, who we all love, hasn’t completely figured out the game, and he’s a coach’s son. He has developed a lot of individual skills, like rebounding, ball handling but when it comes to defending, he’s still lost. And he’s the best case scenario on the team, because Bledsoe and Aminu are still a ways behind having the individual skills. The lack of awareness is typical for the younger players, so there will be a natural learning curve, but the question will remain if VDN is the type of guy that can not only build up their individual skills but their team skills as well.
- Randy Foye started out the game rough, with an awful pass thrown into the bleachers, a slip pass too far out for even Bledsoe to get to it, and bricked a shot. Didn’t seem like a very auspicious start. But then Foye threw a bad lob to Blake, probably 2 feet too far back, and Blake ratcheted back his arm, loaded the ball and smashed it through the hoop. Right after, Randy Foye had a surge in his game, immediately making a long jumper, dishing out two assists and then, from a Baron Davis-esque needle threading bounce pass from Blake Griffin, Foye slammed it home over the outstretched arms of Jeff Green. He scored another 10 points in the second quarter on 4 for 7 shooting and finished with 32 (4 off his career high). Many players can have one good play of their own spark even better play, but there’s something inspiring about Blake Griffin and how the electricity of his jams can stimulate everyone on the team.
- I am warming to the idea of DeAndre Jordan as the nominal starter, setting the tone defensively and then having Kaman as the super sub. The Clippers didn’t even think about putting Blake on KG, and DeAndre handled his first minutes very well. He stopped KG twice in succession and then blocked a Paul Pierce layup attempt (And it wasn’t volleyballed, but bounced off Pierce and given to the Clippers). When Kaman came in, he went right to work, scoring 6 points on 3 for 4 shooting and it took Boston a while to snap out of their slump (granted it could have been just a normal Clipper third quarter). Kaman ended up with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kaman is a much more polished player than DeAndre, it’s that simple. But DeAndre seems to fit better alongside Blake in that first quarter by blocking shots, rebounding and letting Blake get all the touches.
- The Celtics had 14 offensive rebounds (tying a season high) and outrebounded the Clippers overall (29 to 26). The Clippers don’t have many advantages, they need to use their rebounding advantage all the time if they are going to beat the elite teams.
- Atypical of the Celtics normal behavior, there weren’t too many scuffles, just the one when DeAndre Jordan fouled Ray Allen and Big Baby got in his face. What I like is that DeAndre didn’t back down, he needs to be more aggressive. Not that chicken songs aren’t great, but there is a time for being serious.
- Without Baron, Blake was introduced to the fans last. It just seems right. Before I thought it was understandable because Baron was the star vet, but it always felt forced. Now the Clippers don’t have to worry about it anymore, just let Blake go last (and Gordon will probably be first).