It's a very noble incompetence we're seeing out there. Everyone - save Tim Thomas - earnestly gives a shit. I get the sense that if the team wasn't already reduced to a skeleton of its opening night roster, Cuttino Mobley would be sitting [you see it in the first period when, on a regular ol' long rebound off a Denver miss that goes out to Josh Powell, Cat crumples while his left arm clinches tight]. Meanwhile, there are other promising developments ahead of next November:
Al Thornton is evolving into a serious scorer. But we're also seeing that he's not merely an unrepentant chucker. This might sound strange given that the kid attempts 25 shots -- resulting in 13 FGMs and three trips to the line - but the Clippers need him to shoot more to win down the stretch tonight.
More good news: Corey Maggette continues to play himself into some serious cash, which is good because every dollar he commands on the open market is one less temptation for Donald T. Sterling to reaffirm Corey's incumbency at the 3. The Clips can then use that cash to bolster what might be the most impoverished backcourt in the league during the offseason.
Josh Powell continues to show that he's a serviceable frontcourt bench guy who can give you a quality screen up high. And whatever else Thomas might be, I don't have a problem going into 2008-20009 with Thornton-Brand-Kaman backed up by Thomas-Powell-TenMinuteANightFrontcourtBody.
On the very next possession, Linas Kleiza checks into the game for Carter. Could Thornton get any luckier? Maybe not, but it's one thing to inherit a good mismatch, it's another to exploit it. So how do you abuse a plodding defender when you're lightning quick on the wing? You run the lug ragged. Sure enough, Knight brings it down across halfcourt. Al starts in the left corner. Kleiza is a little behind him from the outset; Josh Powell offers a little rub on the right side; Thornton breezes around it; Knight gets Al the ball promptly; Al has plenty of time to catch, set, and shoot an open 19-footer. It's one of those pat clichés: Take what the game gives you, but that's what Al is learning to do. Got a smaller defender? Post that guy up. Got a slower defender? Then either take him of the dribble assertively. But if the team has good help at the basket [and Camby is probably the best help defender in the league around the basket], then you might be better off running your defender around to work an open shot for yourself.
The great irony of the game - one in which Thornton shoots more than he ever has - is that Thornton probably takes a couple too few shots down the stretch. Most notably: At 2:19 remaining and the game tied at 102-102, Knight and Thornton run a high S/R and miraculously, Anthony lets Al slip the screen! So with Al all alone on the arc, Knight quickly gets him the ball. But Al hesitates, even though it's the cleanest look he gets all night from 3P-land. Is he deferring? Trying not to be a chazar? This is the possession that ultimately results in Corey's FTMs that put the Clips up two, but it's still curious. The good news is that, in an identical situation a minute later - Knight/Al S/R, Anthony out to lunch - Al does take the shot, which he misses. But at this point in his career on a team headed nowhere this season, the FGAs are more important to gauge than the FGMs.