Los Angeles Clippers
Portland Trail Blazers
MVP: Only one player scored off the Clippers bench tonight. Fortunately for Los Angeles, Jamal Crawford was on tonight, dropping in a team-high 25 points and outscoring Portland’s bench by himself. Crawford’s 29-footer with the shot clock running down gave the Clippers a lead they would not relinquish inside of four minutes.
That was … shallow: If you needed another example of the Clippers’ over-reliance on their top-six, this was your game. The glass half full says the Clippers won an impressive road game with essentially six players. The glass half empty is wondering when playing every starter 35-40 minutes a night catches up with this team.
X factor: DeAndre Jordan is used to being efficient around the basket, but this was ridiculous. Jordan had 17 points and 18 rebounds, making all eight of his field goals. That was the 62nd time Jordan was perfect from the field with at least two field goal attempts since he entered the NBA in 2008, the most such games in the league in that time.
— Law Murray
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Clips have a 5-man team, so even when those 5 are playing well (like tonight), they still can’t pull away in a place like Portland.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 15, 2015
Check Your Messages
Benching the Bench
The Clippers essentially beat Portland with a seven-man rotation, and that was with Spencer Hawes playing just 17 struggling minutes.
Who knows why it happened. Maybe Doc thought there was no way his usual nine- or ten-man group could beat the at-the-time 30-8 Blazers. Maybe it’s not a coincidence he sat the players who are said to be on the block. Could this be foreshadowing a move in the not-so-distant future?
Either way, the Clippers won this game partly (mostly?) because they played their six best guys a ton of minutes. The top six didn’t even play that well. It just played well enough and didn’t have to cover up for the bench’s mistakes in the process. In that sense, this felt like a playoff game. But Rivers can’t play every regular season game beating up his own players with high minutes totals. You need a long rotation to make it through the regular season. Because of that, this win may not tell us much about the regular season Clippers, even if it is the best victory of their season.
– Fred Katz
A Warm Bench
There has been much hand wringing about the Clipper bench this season, and justifiably so. But tonight, in a marquee matchup with a very good opponent on national television, those concerns largely evaporated.
Not, however, because the bench was spectacular, but because it was basically non-existent. The starting five plus honorary starter Jamal Crawford played a huge number of minutes, all but 22 of the total in the game. There were no hockey line changes, no long stretches of Big Baby, and no stretches at all of Jordan Farmar, Reggie Bullock, or Ekpe Udoh. New Clipper Dahntay Jones got his first DNP – CD.
In a perfect world, the Clippers would have more wing shooters, another reliable playmaker, or a third big man who could stay in front of Chris Kaman, but as it stands this might be the simplest way to overcome their bench inadequacies. It’s true that this was a special case, an important game on a lot of rest after a long homestand, but if this result is any indication then we may be seeing a whole lot less of the bench in big games and into the playoffs.
– Ben Mesirow
Toeing the Line
The Clippers won this game, and the rotation was hit with Doc Rivers’ machete. They play with fire every night from a personnel standpoint. But let’s look at other battles they needed to win:
– LaMarcus Aldridge struggled against the Clippers on November 8, scoring 21 points on 22 shots. He had the scope out tonight, dropping a smooth 37 points on the Clippers. But he only had two points in the fourth quarter.
-It appeared to be Lillard time in the fourth, as Damian Lillard had another 12-point fourth quarter, giving the Blazers an 88-85 lead after back-to-back threes. But he only made one field goal in the last five minutes of the game, and he struggled mightily before the fourth quarter, stuck on three points going into the final period.
-I can’t stand teams that don’t get to the free throw line. The Clippers had only six free throw attempts after three quarters, settling time and again for jumpers. But the Clippers took advantage of plenty of late free throws, making all 13 in the fourth quarter.
– Law Murray
The Short Term
Sure, sure, small sample theater and such, but in this one game against the second-best team in the West (by record), the Clippers reaffirmed that the starting unit isn’t a problem.
In 17 minutes tonight, the starters posted a 109.1 offensive rating and a 99.8 defensive rating. When Crawford subbed in for Redick? 132.2 on offense and 73.2 on defense in 9 minutes of action (No doubt skewed by Crawford’s single-handed attempt to prove the hot-hand theory).
Every other lineup in miniscule minutes proved inconsistent in efficiency, and I don’t think anyone would argue when comparing it to the eye test. And that’s with Doc shortening the rotation down to playoff depths.
It’s a weird position to be in, but are the Clippers built so heavily for the playoffs that they’re in jeopardy of not making them at all?
– Andrew Han