Congratulations to the Atlanta Falcons for winning their second NFC Championship in franchise history! Their victory did nothing for the Atlanta Hawks, as they were handled by the visiting LA Clippers 115-105. The Clippers led by as many as 24 points in a game that may serve as the last one PF Blake Griffin misses due to knee surgery.
Top Performer: Austin Rivers returned to SF in Atlanta Monday night, and he rewarded the Clippers with a game-high 27 points, his most on the road this season and the second time this month that he dropped more than 25. Rivers also made 5-of-10 threes, giving him 67 made threes on the season; Rivers made what was a career-high 62 threes all of last season. Rivers leads the Clippers in scoring this month, averaging 18.2 points per game with shooting splits of .488/.426/.800. Rivers appeared to injure his ankle during the game, but he appeared to be no worse for the wear.
X-Factor: The LA bench completely outproduced that of Atlanta’s. Former Hawk Jamal Crawford needed 20 shots to get to 19 points, but the Clippers will take a 45.0 percent shooting night from him after he averaged only 5.3 points on 21.1 percent shooting from the field in the previous 7 games. Crawford started only 2-of-8 in the 1st half, but improved to 7-of-12 in the 2nd half. Even better, Crawford’s bench mates Brandon Bass, Wesley Johnson, and Marreese Speights combined for 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting (54.6 percent) for the game. Atlanta’s bench was outscored 38-13 while making a paltry 5-of-15 from the field (33.3 percent).
Major Moment: Atlanta SG Kent Bazemore made a three with 7:38 left in the 1st quarter to give the Hawks an early 10-8 lead. It would be the last time the Hawks would lead in this game. Over the next 14:30 minutes, the Clippers went on a 42-18 run to put the game out of reach. Rivers had 12 of his 27 points during this stretch, while the Hawks made only 5-of-22 shots from the field (22.7 percent).
Key Lineups: Only two lineups played more than 4 minutes for the Clippers, and it was the bench unit (Crawford-Johnson-Rivers-Bass-Speights) that got it done. In 8 minutes together, the bench and Rivers lineup outscored the Hawks 19-11 while compiling a net rating of 49.0. That unit held Atlanta to 4-of-14 FGs (28.6 percent).
The worst of Atlanta’s bench lineups involved starting PF Paul Millsap with Malcolm Delaney, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mike Dunleavy, and Kris Humphries. In only 3 minutes, that unit compiled a net rating of -88.2 while getting outscored 7-2.
The Definition: Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, a former Hawk, got a win in Atlanta for the second season in a row. Even though the game got as close as 5 points in the 2nd half, Rivers praised his team for gutting out another shorthanded win.
“I thought we let up in the third (quarter). That’s where we’re struggling right now, because our guys play so many minutes,” Doc Rivers said. “You could see it with about 8:30 remaining in the third. I turned to our coaches and said, ‘We have to burn timeouts,’ because you could see the fatigue that early. The first half, our hands, our activity, we were challenging shots. It was terrific.”