As if to put a punctuation mark on their victory over the division leading Knicks just one night before, the Clippers came out and pummeled the Philadelphia 76ers, leading wire to wire in a 107-90. That final score, incidentally, does not adequately reflect the dominance the Clippers showed, leading by as many as 32 points before emptying their bench and backing off to allow some final minute three-bombs. With Chris Paul looking fresher than he has in weeks, the rest of the squad upped their collective intensity level and dominated virtually every facet of the contest. The Sixers had won five of their last seven at home coming in behind the strength of their defense, but the Clippers shredded it in every conceivable way, scoring at will and providing a month’s worth of highlight reel dunks. Here are five takeaways from their victory…
It all starts with defense.
I know the stats could lead one to believe otherwise, but the Clippers have really played great defense on the 3-ball the last two games. Tonight, the box score showed the 76ers shot 9 for 18, which seems terrible, but most of them came in garbage time as Nick Young tried to get to 30 points. If you take a closer look, the Clippers held Philly to under 30% with Paul on the court. FINALLY, they were getting out to the perimeter and getting hands in shooters’ faces! The entire team was flying around with great energy and applied enough ball pressure to force 13 turnovers (another 5 steals by Paul) against one of the NBA’s best possession offenses. Matt Barnes, playing with a hurt left hand, was once again the enforcer who applied the necessary grit for everyone to emulate.
A fast start set the tone.
Like in New York, the Clippers came out extremely aggressive, which is impressive considering they had played less than 24 hours earlier against the Knicks. Chris Paul decided to play uptempo and ran his team on a 10-2 run to prompt a quick timeout from Sixers coach Doug Collins. The lead kept climbing, with the Clippers up by 11 after one quarter and the Sixers players deflated as the Clippers had their way inside, outside, and everything in between. By halftime the score was 56-33 and the game was essentially over, meaning lots of rest for the starters as they prepared to return home even at 4-4 for the trip.
A warm reception, a hot shooting night for Nick Young.
Though in an opponent’s uniform, the Clippers players embraced Shaggy P before and after the game, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Young was a key acquisition during last season to help the Clippers to arguably their most successful season ever. His clutch 3-pointers against Memphis in their stirring playoff comeback from 27 points down are still fantastic YouTube viewing and he came ready to impress. Young scored 29 points on 10-18 shooting with 4 three pointers to remind the Clippers how dangerous he can be (though the Clippers are certainly happier with his replacement – Jamal Crawford).
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul – a match made in Heaven.
Oh, how sweet it is – to have Chris Paul back, that is. With Paul running the offense, it’s almost magical how easy things can be for Griffin. Pick and rolls are almost seamless, timing on lobs perfect, and defensive positioning on point as the two show why they are one of the NBA’s scariest pairings. When Blake gets the ball delivered correctly in the post, baskets are automatic. Griffin is also more confident in taking his mid range jump shot, no doubt encouraged by Paul to do so, while Paul uses Blake’s big body to ward off defenders on screens, especially when defenses throw double teams at him as he crosses the half court.
Are we having fun yet (again)?
The crowd may have had to suffer through a blowout of their team, but they were treated to a spectacular highlight show both before and during the game. The Clippers decided to have an impromptu dunk contest during warm ups that had the fans buzzing and their cell phone cameras recording. Grant Hill – all 40 years old of him – attempted (and made) a spinning 360 jam off the dribble to cause a few cheers. The game itself extended the dunkathon, with six by Blake alone, while DeAndre Jordan took off from the free throw line to slam down a missed 3-pointer by Chris Paul. With each bucket, one could see the smiles and joy returning to the Clippers both on the court and on the bench as they rediscovered the magic they’d been missing during all their injuries. As they salvaged their eight game “Grammy” road trip with a 4-4 record, the Clippers can now look forward to playing 17 of their last 28 games at home. It is not inconceivable that they could finish in the top two if either Oklahoma City or San Antonio falters down the stretch. It certainly promises to be fun, indeed.
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, Vinny Del Negro