The Los Angeles Clippers played as badly as they have all season in their first game of this road trip in Atlanta on Wednesday night, but they had a chance Thursday night to redeem themselves. During the first half, however, the Clippers did not improve on their embarrassing performance from the night before. They were actually quite a bit worse. The only consolation was that Memphis was just as bad. The Clippers were playing without starting shooting guard J.J. Redick as well as key reserve Matt Barnes, while the Grizzlies played without All Star center Marc Gasol and starting defensive specialist, Tony Allen. The first half ended with the Grizzlies ahead 42-40, and other than Mike Conley, I really can’t name anyone else who looked especially like a productive NBA player.
The second half was a completely different story. Memphis quickly lost control of things as the Clippers suddenly found their stroke. With four minutes gone in the third quarter they proceeded to make their next nine three pointers without a miss, including three each for reserves Reggie Bullock and Antawn Jamison. The Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 57-34 from that point turning the evening into a rout, and giving Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a mini-vacation in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Memphis would have been shooting great had the basket simply been about a foot closer to their shooters. Mike Miller, and Jerryd Bayless both missed wide open jump shots REALLY badly. The Grizzlies were lucky if they actually made it to the front of the rim. Clippers’ reserves Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford scored 15 points each to lead the Clippers. Chris Paul also had 15 points and eight assists as Los Angeles snapped a two-game losing streak. Griffin added 14 points and nine rebounds, while DeAndre Jordan had 10 points and 14 boards.
Although the Clippers played some of their worst basketball of the season against the Hawks on Wednesday, their play Thursday night made up for it. The Clippers finished with eight of the ten players who appeared in the game scoring between seven and 15 points. Seeing the shots falling, especially for Bullock and Jamison, is particularly good news. Bullock has looked confident shooting the ball all season, but without great results until recently. This bodes well for a team who just lost their best shooter (J.J. Redick) and one of their most physical and tenacious defenders (Matt Barnes). My only take away is this: for the Clippers, too often a defensive possession ends when the opponent shot goes up. Except possessions end when your team secures the rebound. If we’re talking about the Clippers needing to show defensive intensity for an entire game, they need to show it for an entire possession. And not just until the shot goes up.
Weird things happen when important players get injured. I’m not talking about losing an extra game here and there. I’m talking about the transformations that organically occur on the floor to compensate for those players’ absence. For the Clippers right now, those players are J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes. First off, Darren Collison has done a surprisingly good job of picking up the slack on offense. Not only has he scored 13 or more in four of the last six games, but he also hasn’t laid a goose egg in the assists column in nearly a month. Collison started the season looking totally lost. Perhaps being forced to pick up the slack was the push he needed.
ICYMI: Congrats Doc Rivers on 600 career coaching wins!
Congrats, Doc Rivers, on your 600th career win! pic.twitter.com/SXXtYdmjE0
— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) December 6, 2013
Next up for the Clippers are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who, to the surprise of some, have struggled this season posting a record of 6-12. However the Clips should not take this game lightly as the gradual improvement of center Andrew Bynum could present some problems for DeAndre Jordan and guard Kyrie Irving is one of the toughest guards in the league to defend. The Clippers must bring consistent efforts of defensive fortitude if they hope to fair well on this long road trip of theirs. Never underestimate your opponent.