The Clippers bench – aka The Lawler’s Law Enforcement Agency,” as nicknamed by Clippers Talk postgame host Isaak Lowenkron, quelled yet another uprising at Staples Center on Sunday, leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a victory over the Toronto Raptors that was more difficult than the final score would indicate.
For the second straight game, the Clipper starters failed to put away an inferior team, leading by only 3 going into the final period. At that point, Coach Vinnie Del Negro turned to his bench for a spark, and they delivered the entire rest of the way.
Indeed, only a single starting player (Caron Butler) played the entire 4th quarter – and that was for a mere 96 seconds – as Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, and Rony Turiaf extended the lead to 21 points with under a minute to go.
Blake Griffin certainly wasn’t complaining. “With two or three minutes to go, he was out there dancing and then went and got a rebound and a dunk. It keeps everybody loose,” Griffin said. “To be able to sit the whole fourth quarter is something I’ve never experienced.”
Chris Paul echoed Griffin’s sentiments as well, ”As long as I’ve been in the league, through 20 games I’ve never played this least amount of minutes,” Paul said. “I should have no arguments about being tired. I’m also enjoying cheering on guys out there playing. We like to see each other succeed.”
Ten Clipper players scored, with Griffin’s 19 points and 9 rebounds leading the way. Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul had 16 apiece, with Paul registering only 4 assists in 28 minutes played. Diondre Jordan scored 7 points and pulled down 10 boards.
The game looked as if it might turn into a rout early, but the Raptors hung around via their 3-point shooting. SF Linas Kleiza was 5-6 from behind the arc and DeMar DeRozan poured in 24 points, mostly from outside, and Andrea Bargnani finished with 12 points (though only 2 rebounds).
By the 4th quarter, however, the Clippers’ bench cooled the Raptors’ shooters with (who else?) Eric Bledsoe creating his usual havoc and coming up with two key steals and 14 points to put the game out of reach. Matt Barnes, always a full-throttle player, was ejected along with John Lucas after the two tussled near the basket.
“They locked in on defense and we stopped moving the ball from side to side, which was the key for us in the first three quarters,” said Andrea Bargnani, who had 12 points for the Raptors. “They ran the floor, which is what they do, and we let them do that.”
The Raptors only managed a single basket over the final 9 minutes.
“That’s all defense,” Crawford said. “Whenever you get a team stagnant and they can’t score, it’s defense.”
Lamar Odom, continuing to improve as he rounds into shape, had 4 points and 5 rebounds, but was disruptive on defense and kept the Raptors shooting outside for most of the 4th with his length and inside presence.
The Clippers improved their record to 14-6 as they head out for four road games, while the Raptors dropped to 4-17. Toronto has dropped 10 of their last 11.1
Note: Jamal Crawford’s free throw streak ended at 58 when he missed two in the second period. Chauncey Billups did not play due to his lingering foot tendinitis.
Topics: Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers, Lamar Odom, Lob City, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Clippers, Matt Barnes, NBA, Raptors, Vinny Del Negro