Well, jeepers. This game was a lot closer than it had a right to be. With Los Angeles suddenly losing Corey Maggette and only fielding 8 players, few of those household names (seriously, it read like a Summer League roster), you'd figure we'd walk away with it. No such luck. Each team had two great offensive quarters, one average, and one lousy. It just so happened ours were a couple points better than theirs on each end. We basically took my pre-game advice and outscored them. The trouble was we didn't bother to play much defense or to hustle consistently. How that Clippers lineup shot over 56% is beyond me. Well, OK...not entirely. They tried to push it and find gaps if they had them. If not they resorted to the most basic of plays: isolating one of our wing players. They did it to Martell, they did it to Jarrett repeatedly...they took turns on most everyone. Right side, dribble down, back them in, then spin around or bull through for the shot. The problem is that it worked. People talk sometimes about this guy defends better than that guy or that guy defends better than this. If you've been reading the recaps all year maybe you're starting to pick up on the actual story: we don't have good defenders at the small positions. Steve Blake is average defensively some nights and he outshines them all like he's Erik Estrada to their Larry Wilcox. Quinton Ross had 12, Dan Dickau 14, Smush Parker 14, and Cat Mobley 24. Starting to sense a pattern here?
But hey, it wasn't all the little guys. Some guy named Josh Powell went career on us for 21 points. And Nick "The Third-String Bean" Fazekas made like the Incredible Hulk in the paint with 6 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes. Had Al Thornton not come up as empty as a beggar's pocket we would have lost this game.
Of course we did some nice things too. We scored more points in the paint than they, which has happened, what? Twice this season? We outrebounded them handily. We hit half of our threes and shot 55% overall with 28 assists on 42 made shots. We had some nice fast breaks and never looked out of control or in doubt, despite the Clippers' comeback.
Hey, it's a win. But tomorrow will probably be a better test.
--Lamarcus Aldridge had a whale of a first quarter. He busted out the post game and, seeing as he wasn't playing against anyone taller or stronger than he, made unhurried, unforced, and quite pretty moves down there. He also ran out on the break a couple times for wonderful dunks. (Again...this is hopefully a preview of next season.) His scoring cooled down after that but he ended up with 12 rebounds and 7 assists to go with his 22 points. This was easily one of the better games of his career.
--Steve Blake was really our savior tonight. He was the guy the Clippers chose to lay off of in order to hold down our stars. Every time they sagged off of him and we got him the ball he connected from distance. He literally broke their backs. In the process of getting those 15 points off of jumpers he also dished 11 assists. We don't have to have Blake on in order to win but it makes it easier for the first unit to dominate when he is.
--Brandon Roy also topped 20, scoring 21 with 6 assists and 4 rebounds. He fit into the offense so seamlessly you never noticed him dominating or anything...just a routine outing. He's not exempt from that defensive scourging administered above though.
--Martell Webster also came out like a house on fire and had a little spurt in the second half as well. It was good enough for 16, 4, and 4. He had some trouble hanging on to the ball tonight though. His 3 turnovers were plenty noticeable.
--Joel Przybilla had a weird night! He shot 4-5 for 8 points. But then he only got 3 rebounds. The Clips weren't getting inside in the right manner to make Joel look good on defense either. He's allowed a strange night or two though after the way he's been playing.
--Travis Outlaw didn't look good out there. Like Martell he had obvious trouble controlling the ball. 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 turnovers in 15 minutes isn't a suitable night for our would-be bench star. The Clips made major inroads on the glass while he was in.
--Channing Frye once again hit every shot he took (4-4) for 8 points and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes. He didn't have Trout's turnover woes but ditto on the rebounding thing.
--Jack was so-so tonight other than sharing in the collective woes of the backcourt defensively. The Clippers ran it right at him, like, three plays in a row. He had 8 points (including two icing free throws after Roy had missed a couple) in 17 minutes.
--Sergio had a nice buzzer-beater to end the first quarter for his 3 points and 1 assist in 6 minutes.
--James Jones crapped out tonight, missing all three shots, looking tentative on offense, and scoring nothing in his 13 minutes of play.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
If the Clippers lose one more guy before tomorrow night the game will officially switch to half-court three-on-three.