Those are the two words to define tonight’s matchup. What was once a highly anticipated matchup as Doc Rivers would face off against Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the first time since parting ways this summer, a game of knowns versus unknowns broke out.
No KG. No Pierce. No Deron Williams. No Brook Lopez. And it showed in the Los Angeles Clippers mentality.
“You mess around with the basketball Gods long enough and it’ll come back to hurt you,” was Doc Rivers words speaking on the Los Angeles Clippers lethargic play throughout the game.
The game started out how you’d expect tonight’s game. Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick were firing on all cylinders, scoring the teams first 21 points. From that point on an ongoing trend began: the lead dwindling when the reserves entered the game. At this point of the season, it’s becoming a broken record. One you can’t escape ever. Chris Paul leaves. DeAndre Jordan leaves. Jared Dudley leaves. And so does the lead.
When the starters returned they go it closer, but an ugly beginning to the third quarter and the Nets going up 67-56 creating the feeling that an upset was beginning to happen. The feeling grew deeper as Blake Griffin angrily walked off the floor due to what he noted as an achilles injury.
Griffin’s absence seemed to create a sense of urgency amongst the team. You could see them playing harder and getting thing back to their style of play. It helped that Griffin’s ‘injury’ wasn’t as bad as it seemed when he returned to the floor minutes later and provided a highlight reel block on Mason Plumlee then turning around to get an and-1 dunk on the other end of the floor.
“I just came down normal and felt something in the back of my leg there. I didn’t know what it was to be honest,” said Blake post-game.
With Blake back on the floor the game began to look how it did in the first quarter: with Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick leading the way. From Redick’s return until the end of the third quarter, Redick and Griffin contributed to 12 of the 14 points scored in that timeframe with Paul assisting on all four shots.
“Doc went to me in a stretch there in the third quarter when I had it going,” said Redick.
Redick finished the game tying his season-high in points with 26 points on 14 shots while Blake had his best game of the season scoring 30 points and adding 12 rebounds.
In the fourth quarter the Brooklyn Nets just ran out of juice. Without four of their best players and the one guy they had left (Joe Johnson) having played 44 minutes in the previous night, they just couldn’t muster up enough offense to push over the top of LA. And when they did have a chance, Chris Paul who was having a bad night on the offensive end, shooting 1-10 prior to the fourth, hit two backbreaking shots, one being a three, to seal the deal.
The Nets were led tonight by rookie Mason Plumlee who may have earned himself some more playing time throughout the season after his 19 point, 6 rebound performance. Andray Blatche contributed 19 points and 8 rebounds while Jason Terry, the only player involved in the blockbuster Celtics-Nets trade from this summer that played tonight, scored 9 points on 7 shots.
The sense post-game was that the Los Angeles Clippers came out playing down to the competition. It happens in this league. The Clippers were in a similar situation against the Kobe Bryant-less Los Angeles Lakers during opening night. We saw the Miami Heat lose to the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the season. When talented teams are forced to play teams without their top talent or games before anticipated match ups, it’s hard to keep focus.
The Clippers won’t have that problem come Monday as they face the Memphis Grizzlies for the first time this season. The two teams haven’t shared the floor together since the Grizzlies eliminated the Clippers in the first round of last years playoffs. While the Grizzlies haven’t looked their last year selves, there is no doubt they’ll bring their A-game at the Staples Center. And you can expect the same from Los Angeles.
Tweet of the Night
Barnes: “In the past we could have lost that game..We just picked our tempo up. We were playing too relaxed until the middle of the 3rd qtr”
— Eric Patten (@EricPatten) November 17, 2013