5 things: Clippers use complete performance to obliterate Nets
The Clippers’ Jekyll-and-Hyde nature has been more frustrating than gratifying this season, but every once in a while the Clips uncork a vintage performance and just obliterate an inferior opponent.
The unsuspecting Brooklyn Nets were dealt such a blow Thursday night.
After a seesaw start to the game, the Clippers quickly took control and ran the Nets out of Staples Center, thrashing Brooklyn by 39 points, 123-84.
This game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate, as the Clips led by 46 points at one point, and benched their starters midway through the third quarter.
"Everyone played well," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "The starters really set the tone. I thought our bench in the second quarter was the difference. It was our defense that really got us going tonight."
The Clippers hadn’t had a double-digit win in almost two weeks (Jan. 10 vs. Dallas), and they took advantage of a depleted Brooklyn team — Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett didn’t play tonight — on a tough back-to-back.
"It is nice," Rivers said. "You do not get a lot of these games. They [Brooklyn] played last night and we knew that. They have some guys out and we jumped on them pretty early. It is tough when you play the night before. So we took advantage of that tonight."
Every Clipper played between 9 and 26 minutes, and each one scored except for Ekpe Udoh.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday night’s blowout:
Once the Clips regained the lead at the 4:45 mark of the first quarter, the game was pretty much over. The Clippers’ offense hummed at a pace we hadn’t seen since their win over the Lakers a couple weeks ago, resulting in gaudy performances from Chris Paul (17 assists), Blake Griffin (24 points) and DeAndre Jordan (14 points, 12 rebounds) in 26 minutes or fewer. Paul actually had the most assists in under 25 minutes played since Doc Rivers — the irony — in 1987. Los Angeles shot 59 percent overall, had 41 assists on 49 field goals, scored 56 points in the paint and 28 fast-break points, and knocked down 11 3-pointers. They were basically perfect tonight.
‘The bench is alive’
When the second unit began to trickle in in the third quarter, conventional wisdom indicated they would let the Nets back into the game, as they had done a half-dozen or so times this season. But the reserves held their own, and barely coughed up the lead. Jamal Crawford led the way with 17 points, but Glen "Big Baby" Davis (10 points) and Austin Rivers (9 points) were effective in the fourth. "You can clearly see that the bench is alive and that is nice," Rivers said. "That not been the case all year and you can just see the guys enjoying each other as a group." Dahntay Jones, who is playing on a 10-day contract, will be re-signed by the team, according to Rivers.
Finally breaking through?
News broke before the game that Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge will miss 6-8 weeks with a thumb injury, and it’s opened up a chance for the Clippers to move up in the crowded West standings. Houston, Memphis and Dallas aren’t playing as well as their records indicate — point differential is a much better predictor of a team’s future success, and the Clippers (plus-7.0) only trail the Warriors (plus-11.8) and Hawks (plus-7.1) in that regard. For as frustrating as this season has been at times, the Clips are still in the thick of the West playoff race — they’re 1.5 games out of second place — with only room to improve.
Could CP3 be snubbed?
With the Western Conference boasting upwards of 20 legitimate All-Star candidates, there are going to be some snubs. While Rivers admits he doesn’t know if Paul will make the team, he suggested that he’d ultimately be surprised if he didn’t. "I assume Chris is going to be on the All-Star team," Rivers said. "It’d be a shock if he wasn’t." Paul is having one of his typically efficient seasons — averaging 17.6 points, 9.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals heading into Thursday’s game — but with James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard on the rise, he is no longer a shoo-in.
Hard work pays off
The lone Clippers representative in the West’s starting lineup is Blake Griffin, which doesn’t come as a surprise. Despite averaging a career-low 7.6 rebounds (as of Thursday’s game), Griffin has been just as effective as he was during the second half of last season, when he emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate. According to Rivers, that’s an ode to Griffin’s insatiable work ethic: "He wants to be one of the best to ever play the game, and he’s committed to that. A lot of people say that, but a lot of people don’t put the work in. Blake has put the work in."