Blake Griffin scored 26 points in the first half, Eric Bledsoe scored 21 points in the second half, Mo Wiliams scored 11 points in both halves and the rest of the Clippers banded to secure not just the win, but a winning road trip. As Patrick O’Neal said, it was the “[f]irst winning road trip in a long long time, five years to be exact when they’ve played five games or more.” The Clippers did win 2 of 3 games against Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago back in December, but to say the Clippers have struggled on the road would be a gross understatement.
The Clippers jumped out on the Wizards in the first quarter and found themselves up 32-13 after only playing 9 plus minutes of the game. The scoring came on the back of Blake Griffin’s strong post play on, surprisingly, the left block. Blake has been most effective on the right block, with his spin move to the baseline for the bank layup, but he hasn’t shown the same abilities on the left block.
I can’t remember which game it was, but a few games back Mike Smith mentioned that Blake really liked the left block better than the right block. Blake’s affinity for the left block didn’t make sense. Against many teams his face up and drive to the baseline for the layup hasn’t been nearly as effective, and his righty hook in the lane was more of a anomaly than a viable move. However, this game showed Blake at his best on the left block. Almost all of his points in the game were from either the left block or the extended left block. He buried bank shots, had a sweet up and under (that unfortunately he missed), drove baseline for the bucket and the foul over Yi Jianlian and he spun to the middle at least a half a dozen times and either drew a foul or scored or both.
However, Blake’s command of the first half gave way to absence and uncertainty of the second half. He failed to score a single point in the second half and the Wizards pounce on that. John Wall carved up the Clippers, scoring 19 points in the first half, 25 points total, but he didn’t have the help from the rest of his teammates. Even Nick Young, the leading scorer on the team couldn’t muster enough help. Nick Young bricked an open three that would have tied the game at 68 (after he missed a layup and another three earlier) and completely altered the momentum of the game. However, the Clippers seized on their good fortune, Mo Williams (just like he did against Denver and Boston) buried a huge three on the other end before the Clippers took off again.
The Clippers run from being up only three in the third to winning by 21 points was impressive, as well as their winning road trip, their 4 and 2 record with Mo and the restarted growth that hadn’t been seen since they stagnated after Eric Gordon’s first injury. What will they do when Gordon comes back?
- Eric Bledsoe took over the fourth quarter and made sure that Blake Griffin didn’t have to come back into the game. Whenever possible, Eric Bledsoe charged out on the break, at first lobbing up passes for DeAndre Jordan to slam down, until the Wizards started to close off on DeAndre and Bledsoe just took it to the hoop himself. He scored a career high 23 points, 17 of which were in the fourth quarter when the Clippers put the game away. His speed and athleticism create all types of openings for him that will be so useful once he catches up to the NBA style of play.
- The platoon of Kaman and DeAndre continues to work. Kaman made his shots from the baseline, found good looks around the rim and seemed to have pretty good chemistry with Eric Bledsoe. However, Kaman only grabbed 2 rebounds total despite scoring a hyper efficient 14 points on 6 for 9 shooting. DeAndre compensated for Kaman’s weaknesses by snatching 17 rebounds to go with his 10 points (all on dunks). He even airballed a free throw. At this point in time, it appears that the Clippers simply need both to win.
- Funniest successful moment: Kaman guarded Trevor Booker but had to hedge on John Wall on the screen, normally a recipe for disaster. But Wall tried to pass it and Kaman almost palmed the ball in the middle of the air. He then raced down the court, Booker behind him, Nick Young next to him and McGee filling in on the wing, ready to block Kaman. Not sure if Kaman really saw any of it because his head was down motoring to the hoop. And yet, it worked out perfectly. Kaman didn’t put the ball in the hoop, but McGee was whistled for goal-tending and Nick Young for the foul. Kaman walked to the line, smiling. He made the foul shot too. Definitely not something I expect to see with regularity, and it still frightens me, but it worked.
- Mo Williams bounced back to score 22 points on 7 for 14 shooting (a huge three with the lead down to three) while serving up 6 assists. One great pass occurred in the first quarter when he operated in the center of the court on the fast break, quickly caught the ball and whipped it to Randy Foye who took it hard to the rim. He has fit in perfectly with the team, helping make up for the absence of Eric Gordon because of his ability to shift from playmaker to scorer. In the lone game both he and Gordon played, Mo dished out 11 assists. So I’m not worried about how he’ll do when Gordon comes back.
- One of Blake’s best plays turned out to be an offensive foul. On the left block (again) he spun towards the baseline, cleared out with his left arm but because of that couldn’t get his body all the way around to face the hoop. So he swiveled hand under the ball, while flying through the air back wards, and put English on the ball to keep from careening of the glass. He made the shot but was whistled for the foul. He didn’t get the points, but amazing to watch.