Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: DeAndre Jordan made sure to reward any Clippers player that found him at or around the rim this evening, making all eight of his shots to pad his lead on the league’s highest field goal percentage. He’d even making 7 of his 13 free throw attempts, finishing the game with a total of 23 points to go with 16 rebounds and 2 blocks.
That was … a strong bounce back: With the dismal outing against the Spurs now in the rear view, the Clippers set their tone offensively early in the contest. Chris Paul was finding players easily with 8 first quarter assists, the bench responded by scoring 47 points, and the team as a whole shot 56.6% from the field.
X factor: 31 of the 43 makes from the Clippers tonight were assisted. Since the arrival of Chris Paul, the team is now 43-4 when they tally 30 or more assists in a game.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
You cant spell "James Harden is the worst basketball defender ever" without 'James Harden' https://t.co/oZhEWxbMJp
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) March 17, 2016
72 Points by the Clippers are the most they've scored in ANY half this season.
They lead the Rockets 72-50 pic.twitter.com/3HnLYzVeDs
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 17, 2016
Austin Rivers doesn't want to dance but Clippers PR wasn't letting him run to the locker room pic.twitter.com/5MSPnrejdV
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 17, 2016
Chris Paul has 403 career games with 10+ assists, 53 more than the next closest player (Nash) in that span. https://t.co/zQmzW18ieU
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 17, 2016
#Clippers made 24 FTs tonight (out of 32 attempts)… most made FTs since All-Star Break.
— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) March 17, 2016
Check Your Messages
The Bully is Back
A season ago – it feels like an eternity, but it really was just over a year in real time – much ado was made of the fact that the Clippers had “figured out” the Houston Rockets. J.J. Redick was the closest thing to a Harden-stopper the league had; on the offensive side of the ball, he regularly exploited the bearded scorer’s unfortunate propensity for basically never putting any effort into his defensive endeavors. Despite the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley having a reputation as a top defender, Chris Paul rented him a seemingly permanent time share in the blender. And the DeAndre Jordan / Dwight Howard matchup has always been much more even than the league at large will let on – in fact, although Howard may seem to have gotten the better of those head-to-head contests, the Clippers have won the majority. In comparing the 2 centers statistically, Howard only barely edges Jordan in efficiency rating (23 to 22.2), a metric that favors scoring – which is, incidentally, the only metric in which he actually has the advantage over his high-flying doppelganger.
Then came Game 6, when the planets aligned, luck overturned, and the basketball gods apparently all took the day off to go try that new barbecue place on 3rd, the one where they smoke the ribs for one extra hour with a dose of rattlesnake venom for zest. Some fluky shooting from Josh Smith and Corey Brewer resulted in a devastating upset, a series of terrible off-season choices for Clippers coach/GM Doc Rivers, and a new murmuring that the Rockets were now inside the Clippers’ heads.
Indeed, earlier in the season it seemed the Rockets had figured out the Clippers’ Achilles heel, coming back to pummel their fallen tormentors in their first matchup of the year. The murmur became a dull roar, the kind of background noise that can become a real distraction over the course of an 82-game season, at the end of which another playoff series seemed possible, if not likely.
Well, the Clippers have sense restored a sense of order to the universe; they jettisoned Smith, who has regained his place on the Rockets bench, if not in their lineup, they figured out what works with their All-Star power forward sidelined, and they apparently got back to the formula that was working before. The bully may have been smacked in the teeth, but it seems he’s learned his lesson, and is back to pushing around his old victims with the same meanness that made him the king of the hill to begin with.
Searching or Scoring, Revisited
By the time he checked out late in the first quarter, Chris Paul appeared to have full control of the Clippers offense, which was humming like an exotic sportscar firmly in sixth gear; it was the antithesis of their offense against the Spurs just one evening ago. His court awareness and ability to find space was not evident in his own point total, however, as he only had 2 points up until that point in the game. Instead, he was constantly finding teammates, nearly tripling the assist total of the entire Rockets team all by his lonesome.
There’s a certain level of engagement that comes from a player watching their shot go through the basket. Borrowing from ClipperBlog alum D.J. Foster, this type of “coffee cup play” gets the player to become more active in other areas of their game outside of scoring.
On nights against the 21st ranked defense in the league as the Houston Rockets are, it’s easier for Chris Paul to probe and search for players to set up. He’s forcing the defense to respect the different weapons on the court, and while the aggression may not show up in his own point totals, it certainly shows up in the number of points he’s responsible for, and all while conserving energy to score for himself when defenses tighten up and adjust in the second half.
It may not be aggressive scoring on his own part, but it’s absolutely an aggressive strategy to already consider the opponent’s next move and how to counter it. All in a night’s work for one of the league’s most cerebral players.
While the Clippers were blowing out the Rockets tonight, I couldn’t help but notice the calendar.
Happy birthday, Blake Griffin. On a day that is hopefully still a celebration, Griffin was just a witness to another Clippers win without him – the team’s 26th sans Blake Show.
The postseason starts a month from now. I’m on the record in guessing that Griffin may not be return until the playoffs. How does that compare to last year, when Griffin missed time due to a staph infection?
Last year, Griffin made his return one day before his birthday – against the Rockets. The Clippers wound up losing that game 100-98 at STAPLES Center, with Griffin committing a critical offensive foul in transition with 12 seconds left. But then Griffin turned 26, and the Clippers won 14 of their last 15 games – the only loss coming against the eventual champion Warriors.
The Clippers’ stretch of five back-to-backs in 17 days seems prohibitive for Griffin to make his return this month. But maybe the Clippers will have a similar run of dominance right when Griffin returns? Who knows. Get well, Blake, and have a great birthday.