Tag Archives: Los Angeles Clippers

Brief 2017 NBA Playoff Recaps: Volume 1 (Opening Weekend)

Four games in each day, to launch the 2017 NBA Playoffs. One paragraph per game, that’s all time will allow.

Saturday, April 15

Cleveland Cavs 109, Indiana Pacers 108 (Miles To Go Before I Sleep…)

(CLE leads, 1–0)

LeBron very good, rest of Cavs looked rusty…Kyrie 1 of 9 from deep…Cleveland dodges bullet when C.J. Miles misses fade-away at buzzer. Paul George is mad at C.J. Miles for taking a good look. Too bad Sir Lance couldn’t steal one for Indiana, that would’ve made things dramatic. (Lance is bringing it back to 2013, by the way)…Kevin Seraphin got 16 playoff minutes! Don’t wake the monster…

Milwaukee Bucks 97, Toronto Raptors 83 (Sir Brogdon At Your Service…)

(MIL leads 1–0)

Giannis in attack mode, such a beautiful sight. Half court to the rim in 3 strides. 28 on 18 shots…President Malcolm Brogdon ain’t a rookie, he’s a savvy vet! What do you need? I got your defense, your timely shooting, your smart passing. Just tell me what you need…Khris Middleton is the only human on the planet who can shoot 4 of 15 and finish +27 on the night. Three blocks by Maker made me squeal with delight. Lowry 2 of 11 and 0 of 6 from deep. Wrist rust be a problem. Casey needs to get Valanciunas more than 5 shots. This is going 7.

Dwayne Casey needs to figure some things out before Game 2

 

San Antonio Spurs 111, Memphis Grizzlies 82 (Kawhi Can’t This be a Forfeit?)

(SA leads 1–0….soon to be 4–0)

When we heard Tony Allen was out for the series, we stopped holding out any hope that this would be competitive. The Spurs were ordered by Adam Silver to wait until the 2nd quarter to annihilate the Grizzlies, so they cooperated, ending the first with a 5 point deficit. Then San Antonio won the next three quarters by 34. When you want to watch every series, it helps to have one like this.

Utah Jazz 97, Los Angeles Clippers 95 (Win One for the Gobert!)

(UTAH leads 1–0)

17 seconds after tip and The Gentle Giant, Gobert the Great, was on the ground, crawling and shaking his head. It was a painful, deflating sight. Anyone who was rooting for the Jazz felt hollow inside. Quin Snyder’s expression was more than concerned. Not exactly panicked, though. He held himself together, and the Jazz held themselves together. Players like Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles, George Hill, and Derrick Favors…pulled this one out. What a wonderful game. The Clippers have all the talent and the Jazz have all the grit. The Clippers are an empty vessel, with a ferocious point guard at the helm. They are less than the sum of their parts, while the Jazz are more than just a couple of Joes. What sweet music, Game One brought us. Joe Johnson has been reborn. Joe Ingles is the best YMCA gym rat in the NBA.

Slow-Motion Joe Goes With the Flow

 

Sunday, April 16

Golden St Warriors 121, Portland Trail Blazers 109 (McCollum Merely One Man…)

(GS leads 1–0)

C.J. McCollum was Golden State’s Gollum, they were never sure which way he’d go. Dropping 41 points on 28 shots, McCollum and his pal Lillard kept the Blazers afloat until the 15–2 Warrior avalanche began the 4th. Defensive Draymond opened the gates and the unassuming Ian Clark chipped in 7 of those 15. The first 36 minutes of the series may be the closest, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Blazers backcourt pull one out in the Rose Quarter.

Washington Wizards 114, Atlanta Hawks 107 (Chief Markieff Offers Relief)

(WAS leads 1–0)

The Wizards are probably the better team, and certainly the more interesting one of the two, but with time slipping away at the end of the half, the Hawks led, 48–42, and Washington’s Markieff Morris missed a contested corner three. The ensuing review showed that Morris had been fouled as time expired on the shot. Three free-throws and the lead was cut to 3, as they strolled toward the locker rooms. After the half, Morris opened up by hitting a 3, and the game was tied. Sometimes a game swings when you least expect it. The Hawks have little margin for error. The Wizards bench came up completely empty (except for Mr. Oubre). A few Tim Hardaway threes (0 of 6) and the Hawks might have pulled it out. Instead, Washington still holds home court for now.

Chicago Bulls 106, Boston Celtics 102 (Tragic Turn for Cs but Baby Please…)

(CHI leads 1–0)

What an awful turn of events for Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics. A tragedy clouded what should have been an exuberant first round home game in Boston. Despite it all, Isaiah showed up and did what he always does: scored. 33 points on 18 shots, 10 of 12 from the line, and 3 from deep. Isaiah finished with a +12. So did Bobby Portis, the Bulls 22 year-old who came off the bench with a fury. Those ten minutes without Isaiah belonged to Portis, who scored 19 on 8 of 10, grabbing 9 boards, dishing 3 assists and blocking 2 shots. After the Bulls sent Gibson and McDermott packing, Portis has seen his minutes grow. Once he started knocking down threes at the end of the regular season, his confidence apparently grew as well. Boston’s 53-wins and home court advantage are in the rear-view now, as they fight off Jimmy Butler and Bobby Portis, looking to even things on Tuesday night. Bradley and Horford did their parts, along with Isaiah. Crowder, Smart, Olynyk, and Jaylen have to give more.

Houston Rockets 118, OKC Thunder 87 (Roll the Thunder, Hear Their Cry)

(HOU leads 1–0)

No more debates, no more MVP concerns, just throw the ball up and play. The better team won. The better team has Patrick Beverley, whose offensive contributions (21 points on 13 shots) pale in comparison to the impact of his Westbrook-hounding. Russell can rampage all over the regular season, but he won’t rampage all over Mr. Beverley, who has never known the concept of fear or intimidation. Westbrook’s 6 of 23 line, and 9 turnovers were a big part of the problem. His sidekick, Victor Oladipo, was a dreadful 1 of 12 from the field, misfiring on all 6 three-pointers. OKC’s only hope is to contain Houston’s relentless attack, in which James Harden dissects their defense and makes life simple and breezy for Clint Capela and Nene, who shot a combined 14 of 17, feasting on lay-ups and dunks. Either redirect Harden away from the paint, or Westbrook has to play three times as well as he did tonight and Oladipo needs to wake up. This could be over in 5.

***

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Will update on a weekly basis.

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Blake Griffin is Frozen in Time

Blake Griffin is like butter. Because he is on a roll. And butter is often spread on a roll.

It’s halftime of Game 2 of last night’s Clippers-Rockets game. It will remain halftime until about 1pm. The dogs are sleeping. The humans are gone. The Playoffs are paused.

Blake Griffin scored 26 points (missing 3 shots) in the first half this morning (last night). He threw lob passes to DeAndre Jordan while I sipped my cup of Italian Roast and munched on my toasted pretzel roll (cheese instead of butter). Blake Griffin grabbed rebounds and ran the floor like a swift and agile zebra (gazelle is used too often, and even though zebras are sometimes caught by lions, let’s spread the animal metaphors around). I went out to the driveway to throw the ball with the pack after getting dirty looks for a few minutes. I came back in, unpaused Blake Griffin, and he picked up where he left off, draining jumpers and backing down defenders with the utmost confidence.

Blake looked like LeBron, except more explosive. LeBron from five years ago with even more springs.

Blake Griffin is frozen in time at my house.

He probably won’t (or didn’t, to be accurate) score 50 points, doubling his halftime total. It would be downright shocking if the Rockets dropped a second game on their home court to open this series, with Chris Paul cheering his teammates on from the bench.

Blake Griffin will relinquish the ball when Game 3 starts back in Los Angeles. Chris Paul will rightfully take control of his uber-efficient Clippers offense, and J.J. Redick will find more of those open looks from beyond the arc. Blake may continue to dominate, putting up efficient triple-doubles and giving Kevin McHale and the Rockets staff nightmares.

These playoffs are full dramatic story lines, as they always are. Mike Conley defying the odds and sparking the Grizzlies in his resurrection from facial surgery and Tony Allen snatching steals and grabbing momentum for Memphis. In an ironic twist, the perennially injured Bulls get to face the depleted Cavs and steal home court convincingly. The Hawks continuing to win despite the sea of doubters, while John Wall’s ascension is halted by a wrist injury. The Clippers rolling on after surviving the Spurs, without the invaluable Chris Paul.

But here’s Blake: frozen in time, at the peak of his powers, soaring through the air, but not just dunking…now he’s tossing mini-lobs for DeAndre, now he’s finding open shooters in the corners, now he’s draining another 18-footer from the elbow. Here’s Blake picking the Rockets apart from the middle of the court, while James Harden wonders about his own moment…

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Conference Semis, Game 1: Bulls Take Cavs, Clippers throttle dazed Rockets (Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin and Psychology)

Chicago Bulls 99, Cleveland Cavs 92

Jimmy Motherfucking Butler. LeBron can huff and LeBron can puff but LeBron can’t blow Jimmy Butler’s house in. Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler.

Mike Dunleavy decided to imitate Klay Thompson to open the game, hitting three from deep that splashed cleanly through before the Cavs knew which way to turn. Bulls 21, Cavs 7. Dunleavy smoking.

As expected, Cleveland knocked the rust off and jumped back into the game in the second quarter, but never got over the hump. Rose, Gasol and Butler counter-punched throughout. After the Cavs tied things up to start the third, the Bulls rampaged and that vaunted Cavs defense (oh wait, they aren’t known for their defense) couldn’t stop a 15-0 run. Bulls 68, Cavs 53.

Kyrie Irving single-handedly (or should I say ambidextrously?) kept the Cavs within range early in the 4th, crossing every which way and finishing with his trademark spinning lay-ups (reminiscent of peak Tony Parker).

As the Bulls bench (Brooks, Hinrich, and Dunleavy) floundered, the Cavs pulled to within 3 (83-80) with 8:30 remaining.

Thibodeau came back with his starting crew, the defense picked up, while LeBron and Kyrie were forced into desperation heaves from beyond 25 feet. Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler, and Jimmy Butler.

And one big jumper from Pau and Rose to ice the cake.

Los Angeles Clippers 117, Houston Rockets 101

Wow. No Chris Paul, and no energy from Houston. The Rockets were brutal. McHale’s coaching interview mentioned being “stuck in the mud.” The Rockets may as well have played without sneakers, because there was no ball movement, no cutting, no sharp screens, and no hustle outside of Dwight Howard (22 / 10 / 5 blocks) and Trevor Ariza.

Austin Rivers didn’t have to replace Chris Paul, so much as hit a few corner three-pointers, play decent defense and try not to turn the ball over when it was actually in his hands.

Blake was Superman while Dwight Howard was left on an Island by his teammates

Blake Griffin (26 points, 8-10 free-throws / 14 boards / 13 assists) was spectacular in distributing again, as he has been throughout the playoffs, with the exception of a few late-game lapses against San Antonio. Griffin and the surprising Matt Barnes (20 points on 11 shots! / 4 steals / 2 blocks) more than rose to the occasion as the Rockets looked shocked that they weren’t blowing the CP3-less Clippers out.

Here’s a question that goes beyond Xs and Os but to the heart of the difference between these two teams: one of them has incredible talent as well as heart, while the other has swagger and talent.

Is Kevin McHale to blame for the Rockets playing with such little motivation? Or is it impossible to keep the fire lit in the bellies of James Harden (6 free-throw attempts and 9 turnovers) and Josh Smith (3 of 12 and only 5 boards in 29 minutes)?

PSYCH 101

This was a psychological test for Houston, and they failed miserably.

Why was it psychological?

1. No Chris Paul for the Clippers invites a let down from the opponent.

2. Gear Shift. Dallas defense is much like regular season defense. Houston barely turned the ball over against such sad attempts at deterrence. The way the Clippers have been playing defense is nothing like what they faced for the first five games of the playoffs. This was like driving on a flat, straight country road and suddenly facing rush hour traffic in mid-town Manhattan. In the second-half, once the Clippers found their second wind (remember, they just finished a brutal 7-game series with the Spurs and were without Chris Paul), the Rockets simply couldn’t match them. They were not mentally ready.

Kevin McHale has always seemed like a nice guy. I like Kevin McHale. He let his team get too high on themselves. It was a problem on Monday. Wednesday will be different, but the home court they worked for all season is gone.

Third quarter scoring: Clippers 37, Houston 27 (Blake Griffin collects 6 dimes)

Fourth quarter scoring: Clippers 34, Houston 24 (Blake Griffin with 4 more assists)

In the second round of the playoffs, well-rested, playing at home, against a team that was without it’s maestro at the point, the Rockets gave up 71 points in the second half. Wow. Blake Griffin as distributor. Austin Rivers and Matt Barnes filling in. Unexpected.

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