Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: In the 27 minutes of playing time that Chris Paul tallied through three quarters, he consistently found gaps, pockets, and open space to pass the ball to teammates in advantageous scoring situations. Altogether, he would tally 13 assists to go with his 12 points, finishing the night +19.
That was … the old vs. the new: There are no shortage of former Clippers on this Memphis Grizzlies roster, and overall, the players that replaced the former Clippers had a better night. The ex-Clipper core of Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes, Jordan Farmar, and Lance Stephenson were outscored by Blake Griffin, Luc Mbah a Moute, Austin Rivers, and Jeff Green by a tally of 36 to 47.
X factor:Blake Griffin continues to look better and better with each game, this time showing a large improvement on his shooting stroke. He looked more comfortable and with better rhythm on his jumpshot, taking half of his shots in the 15-19 foot range, and shooting 60% on those attempts for the night.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Chris Paul (LAC): 38th game this season with at least 10 points and 10 assists, trailing only John Wall (49) and Russell Westbrook (48).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 13, 2016
Of the @LAClippers last 8 victories (over a 9 game span) they've led wire-to-wire in 4 of them and have had 5 starterless 4th quarters.
— Isaac Lowenkron (@isaaclowenkron) April 13, 2016
Doc said Redick will get his heel checked in the morning. "We hope it’s not that serious, but we don’t really know.”
— Rowan Kavner (@RowanKavner) April 13, 2016
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Strapped All Game
Sunday afternoon, we were all here when the Clippers decided not to entertain the thought of the Mavericks making them play a close 4th quarter, ending the likely 7th seed’s six-game winning streak. The Clippers defense in that game featured a 3rd quarter in which the Mavericks were held to 12 points on 18 shots.
So what could the Clippers do for an encore? How about beating up the Memphis Grizzlies?
The Clippers outrebounded the Grizzlies for only the second time in the last seven meetings, and that was despite the Grizzlies shooting a woeful 40.7 percent from the field; Los Angeles made 54.7 percent of their field goals tonight. The Clippers also had fewer turnovers than the Grizzlies (16-11) while making seven more threes and seven more free throws.
The result: Memphis being held to 84 points in a game the Clippers never trailed, winning by 26. The 84 points scored by Memphis is the fewest they’ve scored in four weeks. The Grizzlies are undermanned and struggling, but that’s not a new development. After all, the Grizzlies found a way to destroy the Clippers last month, putting up 113 points on them. Some folks think that the Grizzlies have added more quality players since then than the Clippers had in the last three years.
Well, the Grizzlies have lost nine of their last 10 games, while the Clippers have won 10 of their last 11. In that span, the Clippers have not only been the NBA’s best defense, but they moved to #5 in defensive efficiency for the season. After the Clippers lost in Golden State on March 23, they were 7th in the league in defensive efficiency.
Go ahead and knock Doc Rivers’ role as the head of the Clippers’ personnel department, but you can’t look at the record and the improvement of this team and say that Rivers has also been an average head coach this season. The Clippers were the NBA’s 15th-ranked defense last season, and the last and only time the team was ranked in the top-5 of the NBA in defense for a season was in 1991-1992. The Clippers finished that season ranked 5th in the league defensively, and that’s also the season that Larry Brown showed up in the middle of the year and led the Clippers to their first playoff berth in 15 years.
Tonight was just the latest in a string of impressive defensive performances from the Clippers, a period that included the implementation of a starting power forward. The short term reward for the Clippers? They’ll be fresh: after Wednesday night’s finale in Phoenix, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan would have effectively sat out nine of the last 11 fourth quarters of the season.
Austin Rivers lead all Clippers tonight with 14 points, continuing a recent streak since his return from injury in which he has shot 44.1% from the field and hit 43.8% of his three point attempts. In that time, he’s averaged 10.3 points in his 21.9 minutes of playing time. Per 36 minutes during this same span, he’s averaging 16.9 points a game.
For a player that was nearly out of the league halfway through the previous season, he’s far exceeded expectations.
And sure, there are still cries of nepotism and the inclination of basketball twitter to write off his ability as a player, focusing more on the occasional foibles that seem to stem from a genuine look of trying too hard at times and less at looking to see that he’s averaging career highs in points and in field goal percentage. That doesn’t even mention his improved defense over the season.
It’s easy to chide Doc the GM for bringing him onto the roster, talking about the poor personnel choices Rivers the Elder has made in his tenure, but to use that argument in this case would be to flat out ignore how the player that Austin was traded has been doing, or that a team that is constantly criticized for going after aging veterans actually got younger from this trade.
None of this explicitly assumes that Austin Rivers is a great player now. What it does say, however, is that he’s better than many think he is, and he’s showing that he can continue to improve.