There was a moment in the fourth quarter where I kindly began to question the Los Angeles Clippers heart.
How many “championship contenders” lack a sense or urgency? When the opponent pushes, you push back. When you get punched in the mouth you up the ante and kick things into an extra gear. Outside of Chris Paul (and even he gets stuck in this mode sometimes), when this team gets pushed they often never push back.
Several times the Clippers have looked as if they expect teams to roll on their back and play dead once they step into the arena. The Sacramento Kings did the exact opposite. Between Demarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas they fought the good fight and exuded as much energy as they could to knock off their California rivals.
It wasn’t enough though.
Since the Clippers couldn’t stop the Kings from scoring when it mattered (Sacramento scored 33 points in the fourth quarter) they just decided to score enough points to walk away with a victory. It’s not like Sacramento did much defensively. And Chris Paul took advantage in the fourth. Of his 22 points, eight came in the finals quarter, one being a huge fadeaway in the bottom of the shot clock to tie the game with 1:29 left. Paul would then hit the go-ahead free throws to ice the game up. In the good news that was a victory, there was a little bad: for the first time this season Chris Paul failed to register a points-assists double-double ending his streak at 13 games, the longest streak to ever start an NBA season.
The rest of the starters were big in this game as the bench struggled to contribute. Despite several defensive lapses, DeAndre Jordan made himself visible on the offensive end with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Shooters J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley combined for 26 points making four of eight three pointers.
Blake Griffin, despite a 16-point, 10-rebound performance, looked hesitant the entire game. At one point in the game Doc Rivers had to remind Blake to get physical with Demarcus Cousins and company as they were clearly in his head. When you have to remind your second best player that you have a problem. It’s where the “soft” tag comes from. He gets punched and doesn’t punch back. I don’t think Blake has to turn in Reggie Evans to become a fan favorite, but asserting himself could pay dividends in the future. There was a moment in the game where Blake Griffin was flagrantly fouled by Cousins and instead of the common player-to-player altercation that normally follows those type of fouls, Griffin went directly to the referee to complain about the foul.
For the Kings, their usual suspects plus-1 kept them into the closely contested battle. Demarcus Cousins led with 23 points and 19 rebounds, Isaiah Thomas 22 points and 5 assists off the bench and stretch-big Patrick Patterson chipped in 21 points and 7 rebounds himself. It’s no secret that these teams dislike each other and it was visible in the mannerisms of Demarcus Cousins. He wanted this game and did everything in his power to win it. He even kept Isaiah Thomas from shaking Chris Paul’s hands at games end.
All-in-all the Clippers won a game they were supposed to win. Ugly it was and the defense, once again, was nonexistent, but when they needed it at the end Los Angeles got the win. And that’s all that matters
Next Game: 11/24 versus Chicago Bulls