Make no mistake about it, the Clippers are bad. Their 13-24 record places them in the #4 spot in the pitifully shallow Pacific Division. Their top scorer is a 3-point bomber who is only shooting 32% from behind the arc. Their third-best scorer is putting up a terrible 10.3 ppg on 10.2 shots per game. Their 16.4 turnovers a night are the third-worst in the NBA, and opponents are shooting 39% long-range against them (second-highest in the NBA) while also getting to the line a lot (tough combo to achieve because it requires a defense that is late to the scene both outside and inside).
Their lone bright spot is Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin and his season for the ages. That and the Clippers are one of the few teams to earn multiple wins against some of the toughest clubs in the league. Last night they dropped the Heat (the Heat!) one day after LeBron’s karma tweet. That’s not all they’ve done this year. Check out some of their bigger games from the 2010-11 season.
111-105 W, Jan. 12, 2011
The Heat entered last night’s contest on a 9-game roll, preceded by a 2-point loss to the Mavericks, preceded by a 12-game roll. There was no hotter team in the NBA. Miami got 84 points out of their Big Three, double-digits from a reserve (Mario Chalmers had 12), plus they outrebounded the Clippers 46-42 and had less turnovers (7 to 10). It didn’t matter. LA built a monstrous 18-point lead in the first quarter, watched it slip all the way down to 2 in the 4th quarter, but hung on to give Miami their biggest loss since Thanksgiving break. Not only did Griffin continue his zillion-game double-double streak by posting 24 points and 14 rebounds, but the team shot 50% behind some smart passing (33 assists on 42 buckets; the Heat had 22 on 37) and an energetic defense that forced LeBron’s tour de force to attempt 27 triples, only completing 8. The LA crowd was into it, and the team avoided what appeared to be a certain letdown as Miami kept making it a close game throughout the second half. The Clippers have by far the worst winning percentage of all the teams that topped Miami this year.
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100-99 W, Dec. 18, 2010
The Bulls were on a 7-game win streak, spurred by Carlos Boozer’s return. The big man was definitely back big-time by this game: he was coming off 34-12 and 22-18 double-doubles, plus he had two others in the previous four games. It’s easy to try to chalk this game up to Joakim Noah’s absence, but the Bulls went on to win 7 of their next 8—all without Noah—after this loss. Again the Clippers built an early lead (up 61-54 at the half), again Griffin was great (29-12 double-double, including hitting his only triple attempt), and again LA shot 50% or better (51%) in the unexpected win. Rasual Butler, Craig Smith, and Eric Bledsoe combined to score 31 off the bench, outshining the 20-point outing from the Bulls’ entire second-unit. Boozer and Rose and Luol Deng got theirs in the starting 5 (75 points), but the Clippers’ team effort contributed in a multitude of ways, not the least of which was keeping Boozer off the boards (4 rebounds in 36 minutes – his only amount under 9 in the past month).
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Los Angeles Lakers
87-86 L, Dec. 8, 2010
Sure it was a loss, but we’re talking about perennial doormats against the two-time defending champs, and the doormats were 0.1 seconds away from pulling it off. The Clips team-balled their way to 25 assists on 32 baskets, busted their tails to grab 52 rebounds to the Lakers’ 39, played smart defense (Lakers shots only 43%, LAC had only 16 fouls), and Eric Gordon lit up the Lakers’ backcourt for 24 points on only 14 shots. The JV squad entered the final period with a 6-point lead that was virtually erased within one minute, but they went blow for blow with the big boys for the rest of the fourth. Gordon and Griffin combined for 13 points in the period and had the Clippers up 86-85 with 3 seconds left. Then this happened. Derek Fisher knows how to hit big shots, and he let the big shot go as the clock expired for the win. For a team like the Clippers, not too bad.
San Antonio Spurs
90-85 W, Dec. 1, 2010
The Spurs were 15-2 (LA was 4-15), with their only early losses coming to the super-hot Hornets and Mavericks, plus SanAn had already beaten the Clippers by 12 just a few weeks prior. In a slow-down affair, LA went into the locker room at the break with a 48-40 lead. With energy and efficiency, the Clippers kept any Spur from reaching 20 points, held Duncan to a near-season low 5 rebounds, clamped down the Spurs to only 36% shooting, and Griffin tore it up to the tune of 31 points and 13 rebounds. The Clippers’ D was impressive in the fourth quarter, containing SA to 17 points, but the real story was that they held the Spurs scoreless for over 5 minutes in the middle of the final period, squashing any chance of a comeback by the NBA’s winningiest team. LAC is still the only losing team to top the Spurs this season.
New Orleans Hornets
99-95 W, Nov. 22, 2010
In case you forgot how scorching hot the Hornets were early in the season, they entered this contest 11-1 with wins over the Spurs, Heat, and Mavericks. Their lone loss was by 3 in Dallas. The Clippers were 1-13 and coming off some big L’s to the Knicks, Pacers, and Nets. As has been the case in nearly all their big games this year, the Clippers displayed energy and efficiency at both ends. On this day, they started three rookies (Griffin, Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu), but still shot 51% from the field and had 26 assists on 38 buckets. Everyone pitched in on the boards as they outrebounded NO 43-40, and they swarmed Chris Paul, forcing him into 4 turnovers against only 6 assists. In a tight contest, LA went back and forth with the Hornets all through the fourth and were down 5 with two minutes left, but they hit a few buckets and 6 free throws the rest of the way to pull out the 3-point win.