Third quarter surge, on the road, with Eric Gordon back in LA. Yes, that really happened.
The Clippers started the game off shaky, allowing the Bobcats to shoot almost 70 percent in the quarter and because, improbably, Boris Diaw imposed his will. Buoyed by a strong opening stanza, Diaw had 15 points on 7 for 10 shooting in the first half and made Blake look like a training prop on defense poor. But the Clippers accomplished a unique feat by playing smart and keeping their heads in the game. Blake had his customarily strong first half, notching 13 points and 7 rebounds, the Clippers didn’t endure any long stretches of Bobcat runs off bad turnovers (only 12 turnovers total) and the Clips balanced their scoring load, finishing the half up 49-47.
Even with the Bobcats going off on what would normally be a third quarter, game destroying 8-0 run, the Clippers used their balanced scoring to go on their own run, 12-4, and win the quarter. (The Clippers actually went on a 15-4 run, but the Bledsoe three occurred in the fourth quarter) Down 63-59 with less than 4 minutes left in the third, Blake found his spot on the low block, took Mo Williams second entry pass and kept McGuire on his left shoulder as he made the bunny hook for two. Kwame Brown missed two free throws before Randy Foye ran a simple pick and roll with Kaman just off the elbow that resulted in Kaman popping out for a baseline 17 footer. Game tied at 63. Ex-Clipper Shaun Livingston bailed teammate Boris Diaw out of a well defended possession by draining a 16 footer as he rotated in the air. Clips down 65-63. Seeing as the last pick and roll with Kaman worked out well, Foye and Kaman returned to the simple offense again. This time, Kaman was covered and the help defense swarmed Foye, but that meant that Bledsoe was open on the opposite wing for the three. Bingo. Clippers up 66-65. At this point Diaw cooled down and Kaman pulled down the rebound, sparking a fast break. Blake barreled down court and the two Bobcat bigs followed him, leaving Kaman free at the top of the key to take a Bledsoe pass, and, yes, swoop down through the lane for a driving layup. 68-65. D.J. Augustin schooled Bledsoe on the opposite end, but Bledsoe took advantage of Augustin falling into the stanchion by starting his own fast break. Not knowing what to do, the Bobcats collapsed around him, but Bledsoe looped a pass out to the wide open Foye, who drilled the three. 74-67, the end of the third.
Four Clippers scored in that stretch and there was no one player to key in on, making every player both a decoy and a real threat and it allowed for the Clippers to maintain their momentum throughout the fourth quarter. The teams traded baskets (and Shaun Livingston looked fantastic), but the Clips array of threats allowed proved too much for the Bobs to handle.
- Mo threw another bad oop to Blake with 4:20 left in the first. We saw this at the beginning of the year from other players, so there probably is a quick learning curve because in the second and third quarters Mo threw great lobs. The second quarter saw the fast break misdirection and then the third quarter was in the half-court, in a wing pick and roll with Blake and Mo found Blake for the quick oop. (see below)
- DeAndre’s stat line made me think I was reading binary code. There was a point in the first quarter, when Blake threw an entry pass to DeAndre and DJ just held it for a second, realized that he couldn’t do anything and then tossed it back out to Blake to bail him out. I like DeAndre a lot, but post moments like the one against Houston aren’t going to come with any regularity. I get that the Clippers need to be more creative on offense, make more guys threats, but DeAndre on the block is not one of them. Still, DeAndre normally finds a way to do something. Definitely the worst game of the season as he scored 0 points, 1 offensive and 1 defensive rebound, 1 steal, 0 blocks and 0 assists (0 turnovers) in 17 minutes. That said, Mike and Ralph mentioned the Clippers bringing in Kaman to start as soon as Wednesday and I think that DeAndre was effective enough defensively against Garnett and the Celtics the first time around that he could start one more game, even if he doesn’t play starters minutes.
- Blake’s free throw shooting has quietly and significantly improved, 7 for 8 tonight.
- The Clippers won every quarter tonight, a rare feat.
- Mo, Bledsoe and Foye should be commended on defending D.J. Augustin, but Augustin himself was just cold. With the Bobs up 54-51 in the third, Augustin not just missed, but completely airballed a wide open three.
- At 9:00 in the fourth quarter, Shaun Livingston drove to the hoop, jumped off his bad knee and finished with the foul. He had another athletic layup and the foul minutes later. If it weren’t for that injury, he would have been doing that in a Clippers uni.
- Craig Smith had one of the more surprising plays of the night. 8:45 remaining in the fourth, Mo threw a lob that DeAndre wasn’t aware of, but caught flatfooted under the hoop. With nowhere to go, DeAndre skip passed it to Craig Smith on the wing. Rhino went rhino and drove to the middle, spun at the elbow and laid the ball in to beat the shot clock. And he got the foul. Don’t expect that to happen too often, but appreciate those moments when they do occur.
- Chris Kaman had a great game, rolling and popping his way into 16 points and 10 rebounds. The offense looks balanced with him in it, the early season awkwardness has worn off.
- Clippers have a win streak of 3 games, if they win in Boston, that would mark a season high 4 game win streak.