Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: In a matchup of All-Star point guards, Kyrie Irving shined the brightest, dropping a game-high 37 points on the Clippers on only 18 shots. Irving also found time to grab four rebounds, assist five baskets, and get three steals. Irving scored the most points by a point guard since Halloween 2013.
That was … unlawful: The Clippers had a 100-97 lead after Jamal Crawford’s and-one with 9:38 left in the game. Then Kyrie Irving checked back in and shut it down, as the Cavaliers outscored the Clippers 29-21 to break Lawler’s Law.
X factor: When the Cavaliers got to Los Angeles, most of the talk surrounding power forward Tristan Thompson was about how he turned down a 4-year, $52 million contract. Well, Thompson had to start for injured All-Star Kevin Love against the Clippers. Thompson came through in a big way, dropping 24 points and 12 rebounds, his tenth career 20-10 game.
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Michael Smith (w/o irony): "LBJ? So you're on an initial basis with him?" Ralph Lawler (not missing a beat) "Yeah, he calls me RAL."
— Alex Dewey (@DewNO) January 17, 2015
Blake Griffin had a seizure in midair & still made it https://t.co/o47cdQmQng
— Sport Films (@SportFiIms) January 17, 2015
Check Your Messages
When Freezing Happens
The Los Angeles Clippers offense can run like a perfectly greased machine. When the Clips and Chris Paul are going good, the first three quarters of the offense is a clinic on just how much teams over-exert themselves to overload onto Blake Griffin and the looming threat of DeAndre Jordan down low. It doesn’t much matter who spots up on either corner. J.J. Redick is an excellent shooter that garners attention. Matt Barnes is adequate but is virtually unguardable when other teams have to account for everything else.
Then the fourth quarter comes along, and things stall into a neutral setting on a flat surface. Chris Paul pounds and pounds and pounds. The ball sticks to the bottom of a hand as much as the hardwood. The ball doesn’t breathe; it’s suffocated. Beyond the awful metaphors, Doc Rivers has to figure a way to trust Chris Paul with some type of flow offense as much as he puts his entire offense on his shoulders. Even so, Jamal Crawford and Griffin took turns taking forced attempts in an exchange during the LeBron James assault mid-fourth quarter. The Austin Rivers looming debacle aside, Doc Rivers, for the first time as coach of the Clippers, appears to perched perilously on the hot seat.
He isn’t Vinny Del Negro in that there isn’t a solution coming. Rivers is smart enough to get there. Can he do it fast enough to get this team to where their talent begs is the question.
– Andy Liu
Believe it or not, this Clipper team has a pretty decent record in clutch games. In games that are within 5 points (one way or the other) with under 5 minutes to play, L.A. has a respectable 11-6 record. And in those situations, they also post an impressive 9.1 net rating.
But what about when they’re trying to come from behind? In games where the Clippers are behind by 5 points or fewer in the final five minutes, they have a defensive rating of 112.6. In the final 3 minutes of those games? Their defensive rating skies to 123, while their offensive rating plummets to 82.8. Simply put, they can’t stop anyone when they need to most. And it’s hard to hang your hopes for a salvaged season on a few bench moves by the front office when looking at those numbers.
– Patrick James