Doc Rivers speaks the virtues of playing downhill so often that it borders on becoming a trope. And yet, against a team as sorely lacking in frontcourt depth as the Charlotte Hornets, to penetrate and attack the paint can be viewed as the most logical strategy for the Clippers, even from an outsider’s view. Yet the strong outside shooting in the first half – 7-17 from behind the arc, largely thanks to a resurgent performance from J.J. Redick – appeared to be difficult to turn away from, even as LA struggled mightily from deep for most of the second half.
For many a longtime member of Clipper Nation, there’s likely an “of course” moment of cynicism to witness the long ball hitting for the Hornets the moment it stops falling for the home team. Perhaps it was also a bit unexpected to see Nicolas Batum drain 8 second-half three-pointers, especially when the last time he made more attempts from deep in an entire game was over half a decade ago with the Trail Blazers. But in the course of an 82-game season, averages often betray expectation; games aren’t all won on averages or expectation, either.
Top Performer: It took 42 minutes and more than 4 quarters of basketball, but Blake Griffin notched the eighth 40+ point game of his career with 43 points to go with his 5 assists and 10 rebounds. He showed confidence in his outside shot, hitting three 3-pointers in a game for the first time in his career. He also did much of the heavy lifting in the clutch, including the team’s first points in OT, a three-point play to regain the lead in the extra period, and the free throws that put the Clippers ahead for good.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 27, 2017
X-Factor: With Frank Kaminsky and Christian Wood as the only bigs available for the Hornets tonight, the Clippers made the most of their scoring opportunities in the paint, dropping 52 points down low and doubling up on the Hornets in the same category. It wasn’t just Blake, either; DeAndre Jordan made 9 field goals on the night, and late-game drives by Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, and Alan Anderson helped soften the blow of the Hornets’ long-range onslaught.
Major Moment: Holding a one point lead with 19 seconds left in Overtime, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan converged on a driving Kemba Walker, who backpedaled to halfcourt and lead Steve Clifford to burn the Hornets’ final timeout. On the ensuing inbound, Paul once again fronted Walker as he held the ball just beyond the center stripe, leading the Hornets Point Guard to this time lean for contact and throw the ball towards the basket. With no whistle, the errant toss landed in the hands of Jordan, who would finish on the other end to bring the Clippers’ lead to 3 with under 3 seconds to go.
Key Lineups: Despite its absence for nearly two months, the Clippers starting lineup remains one of the most played and most dependable. Tonight was no different, as 83 of the Clippers total points were scored with this the five-man lineup on the floor, which finished the game with a net rating of 25.1 in the 32 minutes they shared on the court.
The Definition: For much of February, it appeared as if the Clippers may finish off with another below-.500 month to accompany their rough December. With the win tonight, they finish the month at 6-5. Credit Blake Griffin’s stellar play for keeping the team afloat, as he caps off a February in which he averaged 26.2 points (51% FG/47.6% 3P/78.3% FT), 8.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists.
JJ said this is as good as he's seen Blake play. “It’s a cliché, but he has played like he’s on a mission."
— Rowan Kavner (@RowanKavner) February 27, 2017