Fourth quarter and the starters had to play?? Blake Griffin and Chris Paul went 30+ minutes?? THE SKY IS FALLING! Not really. This was a solid road victory over the number 1 defense in the league. But no time for victory beers, another game awaits tomorrow in Charlotte! It’s Last Call:
Recap | Box score
X factor: Numbers game. The Bulls were suffocating in the half court, as per usual, but Chris Paul and the Clippers feasted on transition chances when the odds were more in their favor.
Least valuable player: Luol Deng. The Clippers loaded up on the strongside, leaving plenty of open looks for Deng and Marco Belinelli. Although the Bulls hit a season-high 10 3-pointers, Deng finished 3-for-14 with four turnovers.
That was… punishment: The Bulls failed to make the Clippers pay for some shoddy rotations and bad pick-and-roll defense, but the Clippers didn’t return the hospitality, punishing the Bulls with momentum-altering dunks off turnovers.
–D.J. Foster, ClipperBlog
9. Stat Check
By Elias Sports Bureau
The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Chicago Bulls for their seventh straight win. It’s their longest winning streak since Danny Manning, Ron Harper & Co. won eight in a row in November-December 1991. Prior to Tuesday night, the only other NBA team that had not fashioned a winning streak of seven or more games over the previous 20 seasons was the Charlotee Bobcats, who did not debut in the league until 2004.
Tweet of the Game
I get confused when the Clippers score on a non-lob
— InsideHoops.com (@InsideHoops) December 12, 2012
Eric Bledsoe Per36 Stat o’ The Night
ClipperBlogLive’s Best Moment
On tonight’s ClipperBlog Live, Kevin Arnovitz drops some L.A. restaurant knowledge and also some language skills: “Marco Belinelli, basically Italian for Willie Green.”
Check Your Messages
Matt Barnes, Leakout Artist
Free agency tends to reward players who possess elite skills; bouncy bigs, dead-eye shooters, lightning fast guards get paid, while guys with gritty court-smarts and bad attitudes fight for the scraps. Or, at least, that’s my working theory to explain how Matt Barnes is playing for the veteran’s minimum.
Actually, the more I watch Barnes, the more I think he does actually have a few elite skills, only they’re nuanced, unnamed. For example: no one is better at anticipating and reacting to change in possessions. When a teammate shoots and Barnes doesn’t see an opportunity for a rebound, his reaction is to sprint back, always quick to find his man in transition. On defense, he’s like a good driver who knows what’s happening in his rear-view without having to actually look. Watch Barnes on a Chris Paul or Eric Bledsoe steal, he seems to know they’ve secured the ball a beat before anyone else, which means he has a three-step head start the other way.
Other things I like about Matt Barnes include: he doesn’t play great with others, but seems to like and be liked by the other dudes on the team. Last year’s mean guys didn’t seem to like anyone; he’s effective in a variety of line-ups and sports league’s best neck tattoos (pending Delonte West’s return); he reads the offense and isn’t afraid to talk about what he sees. There was a key play early in the fourth when Barnes saw that a double-team had left Bledsoe open and alerts Blake, leading to an easy lay-up.
The Clippers are now 7-0 when Barnes scores in double figures. Usually, I tend to dismiss this kind of statistic – after all, there will usually be a correlation between wins and any player surpassing his point total. But with Barnes I think it may be significant, because he’s a valuable player even on nights his shot isn’t going. To me, every 3-pointer he manages to somehow make with that funky release – watch the way he swivels his wrist – is a bonus. He’s already worth more than he’s paid.
- Jordan Heimer
Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls are known for their tenacious team-defense. The first quarter and much of the second looked a lot like you’d expect against this defensively-minded, Rose-less Chicago team. However, when the starters came in midway through the second frame, they realized that the patented Thibodeau dimension was, in fact, one-dimensional; it only worked on one horizontal plane. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan introduced the Bulls to the vertical element of basketball.
- Michael Shagrin
If it ain’t funny, then it ain’t worth jack.
“Charlotte Bobcats wh-”
“IT’S A TRAP!”
Because I just realized that tomorrow’s game in Charlotte is the fourth game in five nights; the second game of a back-to-back. And the Bobcats aren’t nearly as bad as they were last year [although they're still pretty bad (and they press like crazy)]. This sounds like a paper win, but wins on paper are pretty flimsy when you try to lean on them.
The Ones Who Knock
I was asked a great question a few days ago: what’s the best part about watching Chris Paul? My mind’s eye visualized an imaginary but familiar scene of Chris Paul dancing with the ball on a string at the elbow, toying with some poor anonymous soul, spinning a web to paralyze an entire defense. And while the highlights (like Paul’s destruction of Luol Deng on that hanging layup) bring a high level of satisfaction, the best part about watching CP3, for me anyway, is the comfort that accompanies it. I no longer fear that the Clippers will blow big leads in the fourth quarter — the anxiety has been removed almost completely.
And you know what? You can almost feel that with the rest of the Clippers this season. They haven’t been locking up or going into the “San Diego Chargers Shell” as I like to call it, waiting for someone or something to bail them out. Instead, they stay aggressive, they play passing lanes, they step up to take charges. Perhaps Paul’s early quarter conditioning of his teammates is finally coming to fruition.
Mainly though, I guess what I’m saying is that the Clippers no longer appear to play scared, even on the road against the league’s best defense. While that level of comfort and confidence can create trap games against lesser teams, the Clippers are considerably “looser” than last year, creating the perfect mindstate of having something to prove and not feeling the pressure to do so. As the Lakers, the symbol for stability for so many years, begin to crack and crumble, it’s fascinating to watch the Clippers cooly and calmly dispatch the league’s elite teams one by one.
I’ve lamented on the ascension from underdog to favorite far too often, but the absence of fear in this year’s team is truly remarkable. They play to win because they feel they deserve to win, The Clippers are now the ones who knock.
- D.J. Foster