Clippers open 2014 with a bang
This was more like it.
The Clippers wiped away a dreadful game on Monday with an impressive performance on Wednesday. They played shutdown defense in the second half, shot the ball about as well as they have all season and patted themselves on the back.
If their game against the Charlotte Bobcats was a test of sorts — how would they play after being routed by the Phoenix Suns two nights earlier? — they passed. No better way to start the new year than with a 112-85 win at Staples Center in which they held Charlotte to just 29 points in the second half.
"The second half was the standard we want to play at, where we score and get stops," coach Doc Rivers said. "That’s who I want to be."
In good times, it’s who the Clippers should be. Their defense gave up just five baskets in the last two quarters, and their offense emphasized ball movement, freeing up their shooters for open looks.
"It was all about our defense, our energy, and we moved the ball," guard Chris Paul said. "We had a great practice (Tuesday) where we competed, and we talked about moving the ball. We did that tonight and it made it a little bit easier."
A lot easier, really. The Clippers shot 55.3 percent and got 31 points and 12 rebounds from Blake Griffin, who was 14 of 20 shooting. Jared Dudley, fighting through another slump, made six of nine three-point shots and scored 20. Paul had 17, all in the first half, and 14 assists.
CP on Blake Griffin's shooting: "Tonight, that was unreal. [Charlotte] didn’t know what to do.”
— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) January 2, 2014
It was all about moving the ball and making shots.
"When we play from side to side, we’re a much different team," Dudley said. "For me, seeing the ball go in once or twice breeds confidence."
It surely did all around. At one point in the fourth period, Griffin made four jump shots in a row, all from 18 to 21 feet. His last one put the Clippers in front 97-78.
"Blake Griffin hit a lot of long twos tonight, and Dudley played great," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. "They’re the ones that got them going."
— James Koh (@JamesDKoh) January 2, 2014
But perhaps so did the memory of their disastrous loss to the Suns. Some games are easy to forget; that one wasn’t.
"You didn’t have to say much the last game," Paul said. "We’re all professionals. We knew what that last game looked like. After looking at it on film, it looked a lot worse."
This one looked a lot better. It’s what Rivers wanted to see and what the players knew was more indicative of how they can play when things are going right.
"The other night was the other night," Rivers said. "It’s gone. I don’t think about that anymore."
Now, there’s no need to.