Friend of ClipperBlog and USC’s Neon Tommy Sports Editor Aaron Fischman checks in with a recap from the 101-92 victory over the Grizzlies. Enjoy:
It’s a funny story. After the Clippers’ top two scorers averaged a hair over 40 combined points last season, Paul and Griffin scored 23 points Wednesday night. Not apiece. Together.
The Clippers also committed 22 turnovers.
They still won. Seriously.
It’s been said that Jamal Crawford is instant offense, and against the Grizzlies, he certainly was. In his first game donning the red and blue, Crawford scored 11 points in a six-minute stretch of the second quarter. Over that span, the home team went on a 20-8 run, extending its lead over the Grizzlies to 12, 46-34.
Crawford is known around the league as a gunner, as he rarely meets a shot he doesn’t like. Tonight, virtually all the shots were going through the net. There were 3-pointers. There were off-balance runners. We saw everything. Even so, he only missed four of 14 attempts and turned in two stellar offensive quarters. Just as Crawford helped the Clippers jump out to a 12-point lead in the second period, he transformed a trailing team into a winner by scoring 12 fourth-period points. The tremendous debut resulted in 29 points over 30 minutes.
Crawford’s spectacular debut reminds me of a guy named Lamar Odom, who scored 30 points for the Clippers in his professional debut 13 years ago. Odom was not nearly as efficient and he was a rookie, whereas Crawford is a 32-year-old veteran, but both guys did it big in their respective Clipper opening acts. In Odom’s second Clipper debut (“second debut” is probably an oxymoron, but can I have some poetic justice, please?), the lanky lefty didn’t do much offensively, but he contributed four crucial blocks.
Eric Bledsoe was the final key element off the bench — unless you’d like to count Ryan Hollins’ five fouls in fewer than eight minutes of play, which is pretty impressive, but not the good kind of impressive. Anyway, Bledsoe was brilliant all night. He was part of the three-guard unit, including Crawford and Willie Green, that helped the Clippers jump out to the aforementioned 12-point, second-quarter lead.
It honestly seemed like Bledsoe recorded more than four assists, but to be fair, he only played 17 minutes. Plus, many of his points were scored in transition, and that’s what made Bledsoe so effective against the Grizzlies. Where many guards would stop and set up a half-court play, Bledsoe rarely does. “Stop” is probably not in his vocabulary.
Bledsoe converted one mid-range jumper, but the rest were lay-ups. That makes it sound way easier than it was. In just his third year in the league, the 22-year-old guard is so adept at navigating the key. Whether he was using his left hand or merely using his speed to create separation from his defender, Bledsoe looked like a veteran out there. Because of his youth and lack of fundamentals, there will be other nights where the non-traitorous E.B. (I know of no other former Clipper with those initials) looks every bit his age. This was not that night.
Chris Paul closed the game. He only made two field goals in the final quarter, but it went beyond that. As we saw all last season, when the ball is in his hands, everyone appears calm…except for the other team. Even in games like these where he scores 12 points and converts just four field goals, he’s the M.V.P. Granted, Crawford was huge, but the Clippers may not have won without the presence of CP3. In addition to his calming influence to close the game, the 12 assists should not go unnoticed, either.
Ironically, DeAndre Jordan scored the team’s first six points en route to a total of 12. There was a right-handed hook that looked pretty good to open things up. There were four dunks (of course there were) and a short lefty shot from inside the key. Twelve points from Jordan is more than enough considering the scorers this team has. Jordan’s confidence to take (and make) the early, right-handed hook was a nice sight to see. With that said, his turnovers were cringe-inducing. Nine? Nine? Nine? I’m not talking about Herman Cain’s tax plan. Next time he turns the ball over nine times, the Clippers will probably lose. It’s a good thing that Memphis also showed its opening-game rust by committing 18 turnovers, themselves.
Before we end on a bad note, remember the brilliance of the bench. Crawford shot lights out, Bledsoe contributed 13 points, four assists and four rebounds in limited minutes and Odom blocked four shots.. Don’t expect the Clippers to win again when Paul and Griffin combine for 23 points and the teams coughs up 22 turnovers. Halloween only comes once a year.