That’s the Clippers who look like a contender, win by 40 in rout of Warriors

12 Comments

After dropping Game 1, the feeling around the Clippers was more “that wasn’t us out there” than thinking they were in trouble and Game 2 was a must win. Even though it pretty much was.

Those Clippers that showed up on Monday night certainly were better than the ones from over the weekend — they had all their players on the court (no silly foul trouble), exploited mismatches, shared the ball and generally just looked dominant.

Los Angeles raced out to 15-4 lead, Golden State started the game shooting 2-of-11… and it pretty much continued like that for three-and-a-half more quarters. The Clippers reached Lawler’s Law — first team to 100 wins — before the end of the third quarter. The Clippers as a team shot 56.6 percent on the night. Look at it this way: Stephen Curry scored 20 third quarter points and the Clippers still expanded their lead by six. The fourth quarter was garbage time.

By the time it mercifully ended the Clippers on by 40, 138-98.

That evens the series at 1-1 heading up to Golden State for the next two. The only good news for the Warriors that it’s mentally easier to flush and move on from this kind of loss than it is a heartbreaking close one.

Clippers fans, don’t think this is a statement — playoff history is littered with teams that won in a blowout one game then lost the next one. If the Clippers want to make a statement they need to win Game 3 on the road in convincing fashion.

Tuesday night the Clippers stuck with many of their plans from Game 1 — defensively that meant get ball out of Curry’s hands. Smart plan. But in Game 1 Clippers did a terrible job of rotating after Curry’s pass, allowing Klay Thompson good looks from the outside and a host of backdoor cut layups. In Game 2 the Clippers kept up the pressure on Curry but made vastly better rotations that pressured the Warriors into turnovers — 26 turnovers. Also DeAndre Jordan had a much better game protecting the paint.

Offensively, Blake Griffin ate David Lee’s lunch. He was the bully. He was aggressive going to the rim (9-of-11 shooting inside 8 feet) and when the defense focused on him and doubled he moved the ball to the open man. Griffin had a career playoff high of 35 points, and he did it in 30 minutes of play, getting to rest the fourth.

Chris Paul had 12 points and 10 assists. Danny Granger had 15, Matt Barnes 13. The only Clipper not to score on the night was Ryan Hollins.

Golden State has to feel better that they are not going to shoot 4-of-19 from three again next game.

Stephen Curry, who finished with 24 points, was frustrated with the contact he absorbed and the lack of calls that he picked up a third quarter technical for throwing his mouthpiece at the scorers’ table. Jermaine O’Neal picked up a technical, too, as did Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers, when Rivers started jawing at O’Neal over his defensive tactics.

The Warriors still got a split, they go home with a chance in this series, Andrew Bogut or no (and it’s still no). That’s a good start, now they just need to find their game by Thursday night.

The Clippers just need more of the same, and more Blake Griffin.

Reports: Phil Jackson attending Shaq statue ceremony, Magic Johnson missing it to scout UCLA-Kentucky

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas
Leave a comment

The Lakers are formally unveiling Shaquille O’Neal’s statue outside their arena tonight. Also tonight: UCLA-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which features NBA prospects Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.

That makes an interesting choice for the NBA’s two highest-profile team presidents – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Knicks’ Phil Jackson (who coached Shaq in Los Angeles), both of whose teams are headed toward a high picks in the upcoming draft.

And the front-office heads are going different directions.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Watching a single game in person is unlikely to swing anything. Both Johnson and Jackson could send scouts to watch UCLA-Kentucky live and then the presidents could watch video later.

But attending in person is ideal, and there are already questions about Jackson’s work ethic. This will only fuel them.

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Johnson, new on the job, to establish an image. He can clearly juxtapose himself with the failing Jackson and establish himself as a diligent alternative. The Lakers hired Johnson at least in part due to his high profile, but that needn’t stop him from grinding now that he has the position. Anyone doubting him would respect that.

Tyreke Evans: Giannis Antetokounmpo is like a taller me

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Leave a comment

Giannis Antetokounmpo torched the Kings for 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bucks’ 18-point win Wednesday.

Afterward, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans paid the Greek Freak the ultimate compliment.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Do you see many players like Antetokounmpo? Evans:

Nah. He like me, but 6-7 – I mean like almost 6-8, 6-7, whatever height he is. He just long, athletic. He get to where he want to go. He got good handle for his size, and he athletic. Once he get around the rim, he can finish.

If only you were an inch taller? Evans:

That’d be a problem. I mean, it’s still a problem, I think, for me to get where I want. But just the athleticism he have and the way he get up off the ground – he got quick bounce. He pretty good at it.

Antetokounmpo is listed at 6-foot-11, Evans 6-foot-6.

This isn’t totally unreasonable. Make Evans five inches taller and add none of the dexterity awkwardness that tends to accompany growth, and he might look a lot like Antetokounmpo. Both are usually slotted at forward while possessing point-guard skills.

But Evans isn’t 6-foot-11, and most 6-foot-11 players can’t move like Antetokounmpo. That fluidity for his size is a big part of what makes Antetokounmpo special. If Evans grew up to be 6-foot-11, he likely would have developed a different skill set than he has now.

Antetokounmpo is the rare player with both the height of a big man and skills of a guard. Evans didn’t miss out on that just because his genes kept him from growing another five inches.

This discussion is also silly for another reason. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s 6-foot-1 and certain he’d be as good as Evans if only he were five inches taller.

Rumor: Blake Griffin increasingly believed to be open to leaving Clippers in free agency

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
1 Comment

The Clippers were rumored to have already verbally agreed to terms with pending unrestricted free agents Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

But with formal contract extensions unviable, L.A. was always going to have to play out the season and hope those players remained committed into July.

There might be a hitch in that plan.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

That Griffin would also stay and reap the biggest payday he can seems likely, too—in theory. But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start—perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win.

Does Ding have credible information to suggest Griffin could join the Lakers or Celtics, or is that just speculation on the writer’s part about potential fits? It’s unclear. This is already fairly loosely sourced.

But we should gather more information quickly once free agency begins. Griffin reportedly planned to re-sign quickly. If he shows the faintest hint of exploring the market, that could open the floodgates.

Griffin had been frequently linked to his home-state Thunder, but Oklahoma City would interfere with his burgeoning Hollywood connections.* The same issue would exist with Boston, though obviously not the Lakers. That said, the Celtics are WAY better than the Lakers – and maybe soon the Clippers and Thunder, considering those Nets picks headed to Boston.

*Oklahoma City also since nuked its cap space with contract extensions for Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, though trades could always clear room if Griffin wants to come home.

The Clippers are in a bad place right now. One one hand, that forebodes another disappointing end to the season. On the other hand, there’s still time to overcome and send Griffin into free agency on a more positive note.

These are dangerous times for the Clippers, who wouldn’t have cap space to adequately replace Griffin, Paul or Redick if one leaves. So, if one bolts, the others seems more likely to follow. Interpersonal relationships matter, but the Clippers’ primary selling points were always going to be money and winning (with Hollywood proximity a bonus). Winning gets harder if talent walks.

They can still offer the most money, and they’re not leaving L.A. But the Clippers better win more to help avoid what could be a tenser-than-expected summer.

Suns use youngest starting lineup in NBA history

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
1 Comment

The Suns have shut down their veterans or been shut down by their veterans with two goals in mind – developing young talent and tanking.

Incidentally, Phoenix also made history.

Against the Nets last night, the Suns started:

ESPN:

Elias on ESPN:

The previous youngest was the Clippers’ starting five consisting of guards Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon, forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Blake Griffin, and center DeAndre Jordan, who averaged 21 years and 143 days old in a matchup with the Nets on November 15, 2010.

The young Suns gained quality experience – and helped their team to an important loss, 126-98 to Brooklyn.

Phoenix is still 1.5 games “behind” the Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the lottery, but the Suns are within striking distance in case the Lakers screw up and win too much down the stretch.