Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: On a poor shooting night for both teams, Pau Gasol was Chicago’s offensive anchor, scoring 24 points on 10-19 shooting, with three of those makes coming from behind the arc. He was the only Bull to shoot over 50% from the field.
That was … a cold night: While the weather at the start of the game was an uncharacteristic 60 degrees, the shooting from both teams tonight was as cold as what one would expect from a December in Chicago. Both teams shot poorly tonight, with Chicago earning a slight edge by finishing the game at 35.6% from the field.
X factor: Blake Griffin hit Taj Gibson’s head with an elbow during an attempt to block a shot at 5:58 in the 3rd quarter, and what was initially called a common foul was escalated not to a Flagrant 1, but to a Flagrant 2 that ejected Griffin from the game. While the severity of the contact can be disputed, the call lead radio announcer Brian Sieman to declare it “the worst call I have ever seen — and I’ve seen someone get a technical for a high-five.”
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Clippers final possession, CP3 again tries to draw foul on a three and misses pic.twitter.com/bQsTDpsuCW
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) December 11, 2015
It's not easy to shoot 34.1 percent in a game you go 10-for-22 from 3
— Rowan Kavner (@RowanKavner) December 11, 2015
This Bulls win was like when your opponent hits the 8 ball in when you're playing pool.
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) December 11, 2015
Check Your Messages
The Clippers lost for a lot of reasons tonight, I know. But it’s pretty hard to go past two plays that, to me, felt like they happened back to back: LRMBM, on the break, kind of falling over when he tried to dribble, and landing on top of Aaron Brooks, which was quite rightly called a charge; then Wesley Johnson stepping into a three that kept the Clippers in the game. Lance Stephenson, being Lance, managed to do both things: he bulled over Jimmy Butler (his teammates didn’t bother to help Lance up, which is always sad), and hit a big three. He also tried on defense. At some point, Wes or Lance will have to start at the three, and if Lance starts, he’ll have to hit from the corner. If the change doesn’t happen, it’s hard to see this team winning a first round playoff series, let alone getting further into the postseason.
– J.D. Evans
Not Quite The Same
Just about the worst thing any Los Angeles Clippers fan could imagine in any given game — short of a season-ending injury to a star player — is seeing a perfectly healthy Blake Griffin walking to the locker in a tightly contested ball game. Of course, that’s exactly what we got tonight, as the Flying Lion took his bows midway through the third quarter after 25 minutes, 18 points, and one extremely poorly-timed block attempt earned him a 2nd-degree flagrant foul that sent him off right when the Motley Crew needed him most.
Here’s the thing: When you’re missing your best player to help push for a 16-point comeback, it helps when you have another, slightly more-used version of the same model to save the day. That’s what the Clippers get with Josh Smith, who made use of the temporary bump in playing time to do a bunch of the things that Griffin does so well – namely, being one of the better-passing big men in the game. Smith delivered three stunning lobs on the run to DeAndre Jordan, looking as much like Griffin as Griffin does in some of his more shining moments.
The flipside of this is that Josh Smith is most decidedly not Blake Griffin; no matter how close to the real deal the box-less bag of Fruity-O’s gets, they will never taste like Froot Loops.
While Josh does do some things, like passing, almost as well as Blake, and some things, like shooting – and occasionally making – three-point shots (two tonight), there’s a very clear drop-off when it comes to the things you really want to see your star power forward doing on the floor. Smith can run floor, but his court awareness and ball-handling leave much to be desired, as evidenced by the 3 turnovers he committed just trying to dribble the ball into the frontcourt. And where Griffin has improved his defensive effort in this season, Smith has become more and more laconic at those times when it just doesn’t pay to be, resorting to the “Old-Man Clap” shot contest method rather than closing out on one play late in the fourth. Don’t even get me started on his finishing around the basket. When it comes right down to it, it’s just not the same product, and the Clippers should hope that they aren’t forced to swap one for another too often. This is one case where the name brand product really is as good as advertised.
– Aaron Williams
It’s been a strange season for Chris Paul – this being the first he’s entered on the wrong side of 30.
Paul played all 82 games last season – it’s not even Christmas, and Paul has missed time this season due to finger, groin, and rib injuries. The problems started all the way over in China, and the result has been his worst field goal accuracy since his 2nd NBA season, in 2006-2007.
Unfortunately for Paul, another thing happened tonight that hadn’t happened since Year 2: He scored only 12 points in a game where he took 16 shots. In a head-to-head matchup with the most inefficient PG in the league, it was Paul that looked worse: 5/16 FGs, 3/12 from inside the arc, no free throw attempts, and a team-high 4 turnovers.
At least he was able to make 1 of the 3 baskets the Clippers made in the 2nd quarter; a 2nd quarter that was marred by an embarrassing 3-of-23 mark from the field.
Even though Chris Paul made the incredible 40-footer in the 4th quarter, the contested missed 3 was more exemplary of what kind of game this was for Paul. This one was hard to watch. It only gets harder.
– Law Murray