It's kind of laughable.  I know that every fan thinks his team has suffered from injuries to an absurd degree, but let’s update the Invalid v. Suited Up intra-squad matchup:


G      Livingston
G/F    Maggette
F       Thomas
F       Brand
C       Davis

Suited Up

G    Cassell*
G    Mobley
F    Ross
F    Thornton
C    Kaman


As you can see, the Invalids have a real size advantage over the Suited Ups – which may explain the 52-33 rebounding deficit last night. 

Having said all that, the Clippers again show a lot tonight.  After the intermission, the Clippers play one of their best halves of the season.  Kaman, who is atrocious in the first half, goes 7-8 in the second half, and tightens up his defense in the paint.  And Al Thornton realizes that he’s the only other Clipper – save Mobley on occasion, who can create his own shot.  With that high elevation on his jumper and quick turns on his drives, he’s electric tonight.  At [3rd, 2:45], he displays his most athletic work against Jacques Vaughn.  From the top of the arc, Thornton fakes as if he’s going right, then puts the ball on the floor with his left.   Mobley stays put in the left corner, forcing Ime Udoka to hedge tentatively.  Thornton’s left-handed drive is a ferocious one and Vaughn is too small to handle much of Al – but Vaughn manages to stay in front on him on the drive.  Meanwhile, Oberto has stepped out to block Thornton’s direct route.  So Thornton whirls right, up and over Vaughn.  Jon Barry comes over from the weak side to take a nice swipe – so Thortnon has to fade away and elevate to launch the attempt.  He does and it’s silky all the way through the hoop. 

This is some serious shit.  Thornton finishes with 25 points [10-17 FG, 1-2 3PA, 4-5 FT], and six rebounds – which is important.  Anyone taking minutes or – potentially – the place of Corey Maggette has to do quality work on the glass. 

Thornton still needs to improve defensively.  At times, he’s making some bad decisions.  There’s a moment at [1st, 7:15] when San Antonio is in possession.  Thornton is assigned to Michael Finley out in the right corner.  Tony Parker has the rock against Brevin Knight and takes a similar route as Thornton’s drive – left, then a spin right.  Kaman slides over from Oberto, who’s along the baseline right side.  It’s Tim Thomas’ rotation onto Oberto – and it’s pretty obvious.  But for some reason, Thornton feels like he needs to participate in the collapse here, even though the Clips now have Knight, Kaman, and Thomas in the scrum under the basket to stop Parker’s drive and one of the better 3P shooters of our lifetime is camped out at his favorite spot out in the corner.  Now, I realize Parker is freakish and that there aren’t five guys in the league who can do this, but he gets in the air under the basket and, across his body, slings a baseline pass to Finley – who is all alone in the corner because Thornton is hedging…which means that Thornton is not really helping on either account.  Easiest three points of the night. 

Please understand that I don’t mean to throw cold water on Thornton’s performance.  It’s just that the guy has probably never been asked to do much defensively.  But it’s not an overwhelming concern.  When he came into the league, Dominique Wilkins – and no, I don’t mean to make a wholesale comparison – didn’t have a clue what he was supposed to be doing defensively.  But the Hawks became one of the better defensive wing teams in the league in the 1980s – and it wasn’t Randy Whitman.  I don’t think Paul Pierce is a congenitally good defender.  And Jerry Stackhouse worked to become decent-to-average on that end.  So there’s hope. 

Tonight is one of those games that gets me excited about next season.  Assuming Magette walks [and if the Clips are serious about cultivating Thornton as a starter, I can’t imagine they’ll offer Maggette what he’s looking for], if the Clips can resign Brand, get a combo guard in free agency, get Livingston back as a reasonably decent if unexceptional option at PG, they could be strong again.