There's no such thing as a cheap road win, not when you're carrying around a 1-9 away record.  The Clippers shot well, held a bunch of non-scorers to 40% from the floor, and forced some turnovers - something they haven't been doing at all over the past month. But it would be disingenuous to look at a series of possessions and say, hey-that's-more-like-it.  The Clippers haven't been shooting the ball all the poorly, even if they've gotten destroyed from beyond the arc.  Tonight, the Clippers shot 48.6% and beat Houston by five.  Last Sunday, they shot 48.6% and lost by five.  The difference, of course, is that tonight, the Clips nailed the 3-ball.  And they held an opponent to under 42.5%.  The last time the Clippers did that? December 9 against Memphis.  Before that?  December 5 against Miami.  Go figure. 

This isn't to say that Cat Mobley's efficiency and Tim Thomas' exploits aren't welcomed.  But the Clippers aren't going to beat basketball teams with jump shots.  On the other hand, it's imperative that they demonstrate some earthly ability to hit from outside, otherwise teams are going to continue to sag defensively, which is one reason the offense has appeared so stagnant.  

A couple of things that stuck out from tonight's game:

  • The matchup isn't always there, but the Clips must continue to post up their guards.  What the Clips lack for in pure shooting they can make up for in size and brawn.  They must exploit it, because they aren't going to go 7-13 from the arc every night.  Livingston posted brilliantly at 9:47 in the 4th against Luther Head to put the Clips up three, and seemed to be looking for the matchup more times than not.  This is good news.  The Clips went right back to Livingston in the same spot at 8:35.  And again at 8:07. Only one of these three possessions resulted in a bucket, but that's not terribly important right now.  At this juncture, the Clippers need a concise, three-item to-do list of things they should look for when they go into their halfcourt offense, and that's one of them. 

  • The Clippers did a much better job tonight of staying home --- though it's probably not worth noting given that the Rockets' only creator on the floor was Bonzi Wells, and even that's arguable.  So let's forget that one.  The Clippers made smart decisions defensively because there was nobody on the floor who warranted any added attention. 

    To be reexamined in Salt Lake City. 

  • It's amazing to watch these games in slow-mo to see how bad it's gotten for Elton --- though no real fault of his own.  When EB got the ball down low tonight, Van Gundy sent everybody on the floor to collapse on him.  Coaches are daring the Clippers to win from outside.  For the Clips, it worked tonight.  But if the difference between wins and losses on a nightly basis is going to be Tim Thomas' performance, then we're all in for a regular diet of shit sandwiches. 

  • The set that concluded at 3:37 with a long, ill-advised, Shaun 21-footer just before the shot clock expired was indicative of just how far off-center the offense has become.  Here's what happened:

    Livingston over to Mobley, who holds it high left wing.  Elton tries to set up at the right elbow in front of Mobley, but he's pushed off the spot.  Then Kaman sets a high screen for Cat, but the Houston trap contains Mobley and he can neither split the defense nor find Kaman, who's rolled.  With time expiring, Mobley heaves a skip pass to TT, who bricks the shot from the left corner.   The good news is Kaman's offensive board but, again, Mobley can't find his screener, this time Brand is left alone off the right block.  Instead, the Clips swing it around to Shaun, then TT, then back to Shaun, who hits.

    It's terrific to see Shaun hit from beyond 20, but it would be nice if it weren't at the expense of an easy EB face-up jumper off a side screen, you know?   Beggars.  Choosers.  Etc. 

Unless they run the table, the Clippers won't be a .500 basketball team on New Years Day.  But they won tonight.  Since there aren't any red-white-and-blue games on the fridge magnet that count triple, winning one at a time is how this team gets back to even.  Tonight they got the first.