It was college reunion week for many of the LA Clippers as they visited Charlotte Saturday. Injured PG Chris Paul (Wake Forest) and injured rookie PF Brice Johnson (North Carolina) joined PG Austin Rivers (Duke), SG J.J. Redick (Duke), and backup PG Raymond Felton (North Carolina, former Bobcat) in a big North Carolina college basketball flashback. More importantly, the Clippers had a couple of days off compared to the Hornets, who lost Thursday night to the Rockets.
The Hornets also had lost 8 of their last 9 games coming in, while the Clippers had lost 7 of 10 games since Paul injured his thumb. Something had to give, and it was the Clippers outlasting the Hornets to win consecutive games for the first time since Paul’s injury. The Clippers also evened up their road trip to 2-2 with a game left.
Top Performer: Clippers PF Blake Griffin continued stuffing the stat sheet despite being off on his shot. Griffin needed 19 shots to score 20 points, shooting only 42.1 percent. But Griffin added 12 rebounds and 8 assists with only 1 turnover. Griffin was also the only starter with a positive plus/minus (+5), and he sent Hornets C Miles Plumlee back to Durham with this one…
— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) February 11, 2017
X-Factor: Before the game, we asked what the biggest factor would be from this game, and the Clippers big men came up leading the poll:
The Clippers are in Charlotte today – what do you think will decide this game?
— ClipperBlog (@clipperblog) February 11, 2017
The interior was where the Clippers were at their best. Half of the Clippers’ 40 baskets were made in the paint, and they outscored Charlotte 40-26 in the painted area. As a team, the Clippers shot 47.1 percent from the field overall, while the Hornets were held to 43.0 percent.
Major Moment: The Hornets jumped out to a 19-8 lead midway through the 1st quarter. But Charlotte lost that lead by the end of the opening quarter, and after playing the Clippers to a draw in the 2nd quarter, Charlotte was down by 11 after the opening minute of the 4th quarter. Over a 31-minute span, the Clippers outscored the Hornets 74-52. Griffin, Rivers, and backup SG Jamal Crawford had 43 of LA’s 74 points during this stretch, and the Clippers made 50.0 percent from the field. Charlotte was held to 32.7 percent from the field between mid-1st quarter and the 11:00 mark of the 4th, with All-Star PG Kemba Walker missing 11 of his 14 attempts.
Key Lineups: This was a terrible game for the Clippers starting lineup of Rivers, Redick, SF Luc Mbah a Moute, Griffin, and Jordan. The starters compiled a net rating of -38.6 in 15 minutes. Fortunately for the Clippers, the all-bench lineup (Felton, Crawford, Alan Anderson, Wesley Johnson, Marreese Speights) got significant minutes and did well, outscoring Charlotte 21-14 and compiling a 43.5 net rating in 9 minutes on the floor together.
Charlotte only had one lineup that played more than 2 minutes and compiled a negative net rating, as they went small with Marco Belinelli in for PF Marvin Williams with the rest of the starters (Walker, SG Nicolas Batum, SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, C Frank Kaminsky). That lineup was only outscored 7-6 while compiling a net rating of -12.1, but Charlotte’s three most-used lineups combined to outscore the Clippers by 17 points in 30 minutes. Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford doesn’t have many options coming off his bench, and Belinelli, Plumlee, and Jeremy Lamb absolutely killed them when they were on the floor together.
The Definition: The Clippers have played in 10 different arenas since January 21. They haven’t been all that successful, winning only 4 of the 10, but the worst of the travel is in the rear view with only one road game left before the All-Star break.
It is also encouraging for the Clippers that they effectively shut down a PG for once, as Walker was held to 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting from the field and 4 assists. In the previous 8 games, starting PGs averaged 26.9 points and 8.3 assists against the Clippers.
Kemba's been struggling, and then Austin Rivers drops this in… pic.twitter.com/XT5BVf0pn5
— Law Murray 🙌🏿 (@LawMurrayTheNU) February 12, 2017
“I thought our help defense was much better tonight,” Griffin said. “We pulled over, being there for each other. They still hit some tough shots, but I thought we limited guys somewhat well, especially Kemba. He’s kind of the head of the snake for them. I thought we were just on a string and moving with each other a little bit better.”