The Clippers shrunk a once 15-point lead to just three in the final two minutes, but couldn’t quite pull off the comeback, losing 94-85 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Clippers never got going on offense early on. Coming into last night’s game, Randy Foye had been red hot, hitting 24 of his last 54 3-pointers and scoring 20+ points in four of the past six games. But last night Foye was forced to take some some bad shots early on to beat the 24-second clock and never got into a rhythm. Finishing just 5-17 from the floor and 1-7 from downtown, Foye scored just 11 points. The other Clippers shooters didn’t fare much better: Caron Butler shot just 2-7 for 5 points, and Nick Young shot 0-5, putting up a goose-egg in the points column. As a team, the Clippers were flat all night, shooting just 40 percent from the floor, and 4-18 from beyond the 3-point line.
Though Chris Paul finished with 21 points, nine of those came in the 4th quarter when the game was all but out of reach. Frustrated with a non-call early on, Paul picked up his 8th technical foul of the year, which puts him in the top 10 in the NBA in that category. The Clippers looked lost on offense all night long, and it’s no wonder looking at the box score that Paul had his lowest assist total of the month so far.
The other Clippers all-star, Blake Griffin, had another solid first quarter, hitting two 18-footers early on and scoring 8 of his 19 points in the first quarter. But Memphis did everything right against the Clippers big man the rest of the game, keeping him off the glass (6 rebounds for the game) and preventing him from any of his trademark monster dunks that have routinely given his team momentum.
For the Grizzlies, big man Marc Gasol showed Lob City why he made his first all-star team this season, scoring 18 points, grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists. His consistent and fluid play on the post makes him a constant threat, and his passing last night made reminding Lob City fans of what Blake Griffin had been doing great the past few games. Unlike Lob City, the Grizzlies were able to move the ball well all night long, make their open shots, and consistently hit the offensive glass for second chances.
Defense has been Clippers Achilles heel
It almost became routine for the Clippers to force a shot to beat the 24-second clock, constantly putting their shooters like Foye and Butler in tough spots. You can either blame Chris Paul for failing to get in the lane early on and set his shooters up for better shots, or you could credit a tough Memphis Grizzlies team for doing what they do best, play tough defense. Holding the Clippers to just 60 points through the first three quarters, it reminded me of what the Boston Celtics have done so well for years and what has helped them rise in the standings the second half of the 2012 season. It’s a tough defense that will give you a chance in any game, no matter how well your offense is performing. In games like last night’s, when their shots were falling too, it’s no wonder Memphis was able to open up the lead to 15 in the third quarter.
Yet despite a flat performance on both ends of the floor, the Clippers made a late 4th quarter run. Highlighted by another solid 4th quarter for Chris Paul, who now leads the league in most points in the final three minutes of the 4th quarter (Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook are numbers two and three), the Clippers pulled within three points with just over a minute to go. Yet a tough defensive stand was squandered when Rudy Gay (16 points, 6 rebounds) beat Caron Butler for a backdoor layup on a beautiful dish by OJ Mayo (13 points, 5 assists off the bench). The bucket put Memphis up by five and ended the chance for the Clippers to steal a victory.
Another solid performance by Eric Bledsoe
Clippers backup point guard Eric Bledsoe had another strong outing in 21 minutes. Bledsoe once again came in and energized the Clippers when they needed him most, hitting a three pointer, making a huge block, and consistently running circles around Memphis on offense during his time on the floor in the second half. Finishing with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, a blocked shot and a three pointer, it makes you wonder why the Clippers don’t put him out there more, especially in games where their offense is flat, and their defense isn’t holding up.
Bledsoe is a unique talent that can not only energize the group and help build momentum, he’s also does a bit of everything, including play a whole lot of defense, something not many Clippers can claim as a strong suit. The Clippers have a great offensive team with many threats and are tough to stop once they are in a rhythm. But when they are not, they simply don’t win many ball games.
Using Bledsoe more often early in the game, especially as a defensive stopper and momentum builder is something that can only give them a better chance entering the playoffs. With veteran Mo Williams still sidelined with a sprained toe, now is the chance to give Bledsoe the minutes he will need to build his confidence, find his role on this Clippers team, and really be able to make a difference when it counts.
Categories: Clippers Blog Tags: blake griffin, Boston Celtics, Caron Butler, chris paul, Clippers, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Lob City, Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, Mo Williams, Nick Young, OJ Mayo, Randy Foye, Rudy Gay
Lob City was hot from the opening tip in this one, never giving up the lead and beating the Sacramento Kings for the second game in a row, 109-94.
Blake Griffin had another monster game, leading the way with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists. It would have been easy for Griffin to respond verbally to Sacramento center, DeMarcus Cousins, who had some not-so-kind words about Blake after Thursday’s loss to the Clippers. Cousins called Griffin a “baby” and an “actor,” but rather than chime in with words of his own for the 21-year-old big man out of Kentucky, Griffin let his play speak for itself. He scored ten points in the first quarter, was relentless on the glass all night long, and played the first 16 minutes of the game, never giving Cousins a chance to dominate the Clippers second unit.
Though he had a few slam dunks throughout the night, the Kings kept the Lob City all-star from making any of his trademark jams through much of the game, which always gets the Lob City fans out of their seats and shifts the momentum. But that all ended in the fourth quarter as Lob City put up these back-to-back alley-oop jams:
Categories: Clippers Blog Tags: blake griffin, Caron Butler, chris paul, Clippers, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Kenyon Martin, Lakers, Lob City, Nick Young, Randy Foye, Reggie Evans, Sacramento Kings
Lob City scored just 11 points in the fourth quarter, blowing a 13-point lead and losing to the New Orleans Hornets 97-90. The Clippers led most of the way, but eventually lost their lead early in the 4th quarter, during a stretch with starting point guard Chris Paul sitting on the bench. Paul had 16 points and 9 assists, but struggled from the floor (5-14 FGs, 1-5 3-PTs) and got in foul trouble late in the game. Playing only in spurts in the 4th, he had trouble hitting his shot and wasn’t the catalyst he has been late in the game this season.
Instead it was Hornets point guard Jarrett Jack who controlled the pace and helped his team passed Lob City. Jack, coming off a triple-double yesterday in Golden State, had 17 points in this one, to go along with 9 assists and 4 rebounds. Hornets center Chris Kaman proved why he is considered to be among the league’s toughest big men. He battled with Blake Griffin (21 points, 11 rebounds) and DeAndre Jordan (14 points, 9 rebounds) all night, finishing the game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Scary play for Lob City star Blake Griffin
Lob City fans held their collective breath in the fourth quarter when Hornets big man Jason Smith crashed hard into Blake Griffin going to the basket:
Griffin was shaken up and took a few minutes to regain his composure as the officials checked the replay, but he was OK. Smith, who had been dominating Lob City at the time (17 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks), was correctly given a flagrant-2 and ejected.. Four Lob City Clippers led by Chris Paul followed Smith into the crowd after the play, but were group was broken up by officials and security before anything more serious could happen.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith is suspended, especially in light of what is going on right in town with the New Orleans Saints. It was a dangerous play, and Smith even delightfully rallied the Hornets crowd after his ejection. There’s no place in the NBA for players like this.
Categories: Clippers Blog Tags: blake griffin, chris paul, Clippers, DeAndre Jordan, Golden State, Hornets, Jarrett Jack, Jason Smith, Lob City, Mo Williams, New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, vinny del negro