And this was supposed to be the easy game. The Clippers, now winners of four straight, limped to the finish line against the underrated New Orleans Hornets, who made things interesting at the end with a flurry of difficult 3-pointers. As has been the case in most of the Clippers’ crunch time wins, Chris Paul bailed them out, with a free-throw line jumper with 52 seconds left to give the Clippers a decisive 88-85 lead. Eric Bledsoe, he of 19 (!) minutes tonight, followed Paul’s jumper with a tip-in dunk that sealed the game.
With the win, the Clippers remain in the hunt for the four-seed and possibly even the the three-seed. As such, tomorrow is what we’ve all been waiting for: Clippers-Grizzlies, for all the marbles (and home-court, presumably). Onto Last Call:
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
New Orleans Hornets
No Dime tonight, folks.
Tweet(s) of the Game
Back-up. Point. God.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 13, 2013
It only took 78 games. RT @jovanbuha What we’ve all been waiting for — Paul-Bledsoe backcourt. Look at these results.
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 13, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
Andrew and Fred bring up a sore spot — in light of tomorrow’s matchup with Memphis — as they claim Reggie Evans would be the one bench player who could solve the Clippers’ defensive rebounding woes. Also, with his button-up shirt and long hair, Andrew looks like a boy band member from the late-90s, so there’s that.
Check Your Messages
Chris Paul checked in for Lamar Odom with 8:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Clippers finished the game with Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Blake Griffin. Here is the stat line for the final 8:49 of this game:
Los Angeles Clippers
9-12 FG | 3-4 3P | 11-14 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 32 PTS
New Orleans Hornets
6-14 FG | 3-4 3P | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 4 TO | 20 PTS
– Andrew Han
Friday was ugly, but at least it paved the way for Saturday’s excitement. The game against the Grizzlies might be the biggest regular season game in Clippers history. Think about that for a second: the biggest game in Clippers history. Sure, there was the closer against the Knicks last season that had the Clips in a similar position, fighting for home court advantage in an upcoming first-round series against Memphis, but this is different. It’s head-to-head. It’s a confrontation with the Clippers’ first real on-court, basketball rival. If you’re a basketball nerd like me, tomorrow night is the Saturday night you wait to go out. You stay in, watch what will probably be the ugliest game of the night, and appreciate that the Clippers actually have late-season, big-game rivals to compete against.
– Fred Katz
Whenever the Clippers are in the midst of a close game in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Chris Paul will turn to his teammates and say, “It’s winning time.” That usually means Paul is getting ready to take over the game. It seemed unlikely that Paul would be able to do that Friday as he sat on the bench in the fourth quarter, his right knee wrapped after scoring only seven points. That all changed when Paul checked back into the game. He scored 10 points in less than nine minutes in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points, 14 assists and two steals. He scored the Clippers’ last six points from the free throw line and his step-back jump shot with less than a minute left gave the Clippers a 88-85 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
– Arash Markazi at ESPN LA
Who Are You?
As Fred said, tonight’s game was ugly, but tomorrow’s shall be the ugliest. The Grizzlies are the kings of “grit-n-grind”, and we shall expect a slowed-down slugfest. Memphis is going to try to suffocate the Clippers on defense, pound them inside on offense, and out-smart them overall. This game has more than just seeding implications: it’s a first round preview, most likely. This game will set the tone for when these two (presumably) meet up in a week.
From here on out, the Clippers control their destiny. Win out and you get the four-seed and home-court over the Grizzlies, at the least. Lose any game, and you’re stuck in the five-spot, with the daunting task of having to face the Nuggets or Grizzlies on the road. (And my favorite scenario: win out, and have the Nuggets lose just one game, and get the three-seed. It’s a long shot — the Nuggets’ remaining games are easy: vs. Portland, at Milwaukee and vs. Phoenix — but still possible.)
In the past couple months, the Clippers have lost their identity. We’re not really sure who this team is. Contender? Pretender? Somewhere in the middle? What’s their ceiling? This, more than anything, will show us who these Clippers really are.
– Jovan Buha