Game Notes: Blazers at Clippers
Clips could be on the road to respectability.
Are the Clippers turning the corner?
Maybe. Just maybe.
One thing is certain, the Clippers are playing some good basketball ball right about now. And never was that more evident than on Monday in a 105-95 victory over Portland, although the Trail Blazers, decimated by injuries recently, dressed only nine guys for the game at Staples Center.
Nevertheless, the Clippers started the new year, 2010 of course, the same way they ended 2009, with a double-digit win. That’s right, back-to-back victories by more than 10 points. In their last game, Philadelphia traveled way out West and the Clippers handed the 76ers a lopsided 16-point loss.
Let’s get back to the whole turning the corner conversation. We are, after all, talking about Clippers. Most everyone knows that optimism and the Clippers aren’t mentioned in the same sentence very often.
It is, however, worth noting that two games ago, they did the unthinkable, defeating the Celtics, 92-90, at home. Duplicating the feat on Wednesday against Lakers would be huge, a big-time statement-maker.
It’s a golden opportunity for the Clippers to prove that maybe, just maybe, they are for real. It’s a chance to prove, at the very least, that they shouldn’t be considered a complete pushover any longer.
*** Was hoping to see LaMarcus Aldridge in action, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. A quick visit to the media room before the opening tip reveals that Aldridge won’t be uniform tonight. In fact, he didn’t even make the trip down South. He’s up in Oregon receiving treatment on a sprained ankle.
*** Welcome home Andre Miller. The 11-year veteran is a Los Angeles native, born and raised, having attended high school at nearby Verbum Dei. Moreover, he played with the Clippers during the 2002-03 season. Needless to say, he’s well received once he makes his way to the court before things started.
*** Chris Kaman appears relaxed during warm-ups. And he should be considering all signs point to him having a big game. When it comes to the frontcourt, Portland is extremely thin. No Greg Oden. No Joe Przybilla. And now, no Aldridge. You know things are bad when Juwan Howard is your staring center.
*** Blake Griffin appears to be in good spirits. He is, after all, close to making his NBA debut. Word is, Griffin is doing some light running on treadmill and could make his first appearance before the end of the month. Adding the rookie into the mix will only make things more interesting. Can’t wait to see what this kid is made of.
*** Miller is feeling it early on. He steals a pass, takes the ball to the basket and Eric Gordon and Kaman quickly converge on him. A clever drop pass to Martell Webster leads to a two-handed dunk, giving the Trail Blazers a 15-12 lead at 6:18.
*** Rasual Butler isn’t making much of an impact on the offensive end of the floor, but he’s getting after things on defense. He frustrates the normally cool, calm and collected Brandon Roy, who commits a pair of turnovers, on traveling calls, no less.
*** Is anyone going to put a body on Miller? First, he gets into the lane and hits a floater. Then he finds Webster for his third easy dunk of the game. With 4:13 left, the Clippers are down 19-14. In the first 12 minutes, Miller ends up with 6 points and 6 assists.
*** The Clippers hold for the last shot. At the top of the key, Baron Davis dribbles the ball, uses a crossover move to lose Jerryd Bayless and knocks down a 13-foot jumper before the buzzer sounds to cut the deficit to 21-20 at the end of one.
*** This is comical. Currently on the floor for the Trail Blazers: Howard, Bayless, Webster, Dante Cunningham and Patty Mills. You’ve got to be kidding me. If the Clippers don’t blow these guys out, there’s something wrong.
*** When it comes to DeAndre Jordan, there’s plenty to like. The backup center for the Clippers has a great motor, is long and possesses some serious hops. Jordan snatches a rebound along the baseline, explodes to the rim and dunks on Webster to give the Clippers their first lead in a while, 27-25, at 9:00.
*** Minutes later, Webster gets a small measure of revenge. Camped out in the corner, he buries a 3-pointer, is fouled in the act by Al Thornton and makes the free-throw to complete the four-point play to tie the score, 29-29
*** Miller stealing the spotlight doesn‘t agree with Davis. A spin move creates space in between the two and Howard offers little resistance as Davis scores on a floater, giving the Clippers a 39-36 lead with 4:47 left before the break.
*** Roy has enough with Butler‘s antics. You can’t blame the guy, he’s been hounded, all over the court, ever since the ball was set in motion. Roy takes the ball to the hole strong and scores his first points of the game, at the 1:47 mark, on a left-handed layup over Kaman. Let’s see if this sparks a fire underneath Roy. If anyone can take over a game, it’s him, no doubt about. With the basket, Portland trails by two points.
*** No he didn’t. Howard just posterized Kaman, far and away the highlight of the first half. At intermission, were all tied up here, 45-45.
*** After getting shown up by Howard, Kaman goes to work. He scores 10 points over a seven-minute stretch to give the Clippers a 68-66 lead at 5:18.
*** Eric Gordon, in foul trouble for majority of the first half, starts heating up. In a hurry. He knocks down a three-pointer, then makes two more from way downtown. He adds a layup and a few free-throws. All told, Gordon scores 16 of his 19 points in the third. Not surprisingly, the Clippers take a 73-66 advantage at 4:00.
*** Webster keeps the Trail Blazers close with a 25-footer and a 20-footer. The Clippers lead 78-74 at the end of three. Webster finishes the game with 25 points on 9-15 shooting from the field, including five three-pointers.
*** Cunningham shows a soft touch from out on the perimeter, sinking a pair of baseline jumpers. Portland trails 81-79 with 10:30 remaining.
*** With Roy in check, Butler goes on the offensive. He makes a 18-footer, a three-pointer and a technical free-throw as the Clippers extend the lead to 11 points at 6:50. He buries another basket from beyond the arc to make it 98-83 with 5:11 left.
*** Portland’s reserves, which you can count on one hand, make a few meaningless baskets down the stretch to make the final score, 105-95, somewhat respectable.
*** Kaman played well, far from spectacular though. He finished the night with 20 points, on 9-13 shooting from the field, to go along with 8 rebounds. When all was said and done, coach Mike Dunleavy was pleased and said: “We did a nice job of getting the ball into Kaman and letting him anchor us.”
*** Roy entered the game scoring 20 or more points in 15 straight games. However, he struggled throughout, ending up with 6 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. “They did a good job of denying me the basketball and double-teaming me when they had to,” he said. “I wasn’t as aggressive in the double-teams and we were a little late getting to our positions.”
*** Didn’t talk much about Marcus Camby, but after taking a look at the final numbers, turns out he stuffed the stat sheet. Fantasy hoops junkies rejoice, Camby had 9 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Haven’t looked yet, but hope I’m not going up against him this week.
*** Davis did his job, for the most part. He kept everyone involved and managed to get some shots for himself, finishing with 15 points and 9 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals. However, he wasn’t happy with the fact that he had 8 turnovers. “It was mostly my fault,” he said. “I was trying to make aggressive plays and I let the ball get away from me.”