I am writing this recap and the game is only just midway through the 4th quarter. The Clippers haven’t won a game by double-digits since the Hawks 10 days ago. Now, to me, that isn’t that long, especially not for a flawed team like the Clippers. But this was still a nice surprise following that upsetting loss to the Hornets. And it wasn’t like Memphis came in on the second night of a back-to-back while the Clippers rested, either. Both of these teams came off a day off, and the Clippers pretty quickly showed that they were more engaged than the Grizzlies (33-17 first quarter in favor of LAC really set the tone, you guys).
And that’s great. With Mo Williams out (and “worse than day-to-day” with a toe injury), Randy Foye hit open threes AND got into the lane. That was great. Blake normally struggles mightily against the Grizzlies, but he got to the line 12 times today and also dished out 5 assists. It’s so important for the Clippers’ SG to hit open shots. So important. Also important? Chris Paul did some posting up, did some penetrating, did some pushing in transition and extended transition, which was a welcome sight. 9 free throw attempts for Chris Paul at the end of the game is a pretty good indicator of a Clippers win. Caron Butler even had the jumper going, though he’s still stepping in for long-2s on those tired legs, which isn’t always going to be nice to watch. A lot of credit to Caron for hitting the boards again against a Memphis team that was getting all kinds of offensive boards from wings and guards as well as bigs, especially early on. Nick Young has continued to struggle at times from the field, but he still managed to draw fouls and hit a few jumpers.
The bad is that a lot of the extra aggression we got to see from Chris Paul came on turnovers and ball pressure that the Clippers don’t often show. Also, the Grizzlies weren’t exactly forced into a lot of those. They were pretty out of it today, and sadly I have to take part of the credit away from DeAndre Jordan and to good fortune in regards to some missed open looks. notice that 8/14 mark for the Grizzlies from long-range. This is the 4th worst team in terms of 3-point shooting and the Clippers managed to leave the only guys who can hit from long-range open. Upsetting. However, overall, the defense from the Clippers did look a bit better. Do I expect it to continue, especially against stronger offensive teams? Probably not on most nights.
Other notes! Early in the 2nd quarter, Vinny Del Negro rolled out a lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Nick Young, Bobby Simmons, Kenyon Martin, and Reggie Evans. This was against a Grizzlies lineup that still had Gasol and Gay in, if memory serves. Fortunately, not too much damage was done.
The Grizzlies suffered through the 2nd as a whole not only with that lineup I just mentioned playing around 5 minutes, but also when both team’s starters came back in. The Grizzlies worked Rudy Gay isos and some interior passing, plus some runouts. Offensively, the Clippers didn’t get some good looks to fall which stopped them from keeping pace in the 2nd.
At one point, Blake Griffin did nothing put spot-up several times down the floor as Chris Paul posted up and Randy Foye and Caron Butler flashed through the lane. Chris Paul posting up is fine. But maybe we could see Blake getting some better cross-screen action and getting some more flashes through the paint with a guard already established on the wing. So much of the bad offense the Clippers suffer through for stretches in games (and again, we know that the Clippers are still a very solid offensive team) come from either bad bench lineups or from stagnant stretches in which Blake is standing in an area where he isn’t dangerous, or when Chris Paul is asked to do too much.
If You Didn’t Want to Read The Stuff Before This: The Clippers were way more aggressive on both ends today and it was excellent – drawing fouls, forcing turnovers, generally being more engaged than the Grizzlies. But their were still defensive issues, especially in regards to closing out on shooters. All in all, a great bounce back win. 4 players scored 16 or more points. When the whole team is getting out in transition, and then hitting open jumpers often enough to keep the opposition honest in the halfcourt, this team looks really good.