Collective effort helps Clippers rout Kings

It was over before you knew it, before many in the crowd had a chance to bite into their hot dogs or take a sip from their drinks, before the Clippers could really flex their muscles in front of the Sacramento Kings.

Caron Butler sank a 3-pointer to break an early tie. DeAndre Jordan soared to dunk a missed shot by teammate Chris Paul a moment later and then dunked a lob pass from Blake Griffin, who sank a hook shot a minute later.

The Clippers were never challenged again and seized a lopsided 116-81 victory Saturday night from the Kings in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060 at Staples Center. After breaking a 6-6 tie on Butler’s 3, the Clippers were unstoppable.

“We didn’t let them in the game early,” Paul said after the Clippers’ widest margin of victory this season. “The ball moved. Everybody touched the ball. We’re pretty dangerous when that happens. Tonight we made shots and got (defense) stops.

“It was collective.”

Playing with an unmistakable sense of purpose, the Clippers did what good teams are supposed to do when they play poor ones. They exploited the Kings’ weaknesses and took away their will to fight by building a big lead and holding it.

The Clippers led by 30-17 after the first quarter, then by 58-34 at halftime before they really warmed to the task. They led by as many as 34 points in the third quarter and held an 87-58 advantage going into the fourth.

It was simply exercise by then, which was fine with the Clippers (10-6). Their second unit got to play extended minutes and their starters got a chance to rest and cheer their teammates. No one in a Clippers uniform was overworked.

Clippers fans, having grown bored with the game, entertained themselves by performing a fourth-quarter wave before heading for the exits. The Clippers led by 101-70 when many in the crowd departed with 5:37 remaining.

Jamal Crawford, a reserve guard, led seven Clippers in double figures with 17 points. Griffin, Paul and backup guard Eric Bledsoe each scored 14 points. Jordan scored 13 points, Matt Barnes added 12 points and Butler scored 11 points.

Marcus Thornton scored 20 points for the Kings, who fell to 4-12 overall and 0-6 on the road. Jason Thompson added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Thornton and Thompson were the only Kings starters to score in double figures.

“I said to the guys, ‘I’ve never played on an Olympic team, but it seems that’s how this is,’” said Crawford, who added a season-high six assists. “Very balanced, guys really unselfish. We have to do it by committee and that’s how we did it.”

The Clippers did all the right things to ensure they would have an easy night. They took the game to the Kings from the opening tip and led by as many as 25 points in the second quarter, playing with equal gusto with and without the ball.

Sacramento seemed befuddled at both ends of the court as the Clippers overwhelmed the Kings with their depth, their skill and a sound game plan. Mostly, the Clippers put their heads down and took the ball to the hoop.

Lob City was open for business with the Clippers scoring 32 of their first 58 points in the paint. There was one significant mishap when Griffin attempted to throw down a lob for a wicked dunk but ended up tossing the ball into the Clippers’ bench.

Griffin was fouled on his misfire, which figured to be a staple on the late-night blooper reels. He made up for it by sinking the ensuing free throws and helping to propel the Clippers to a commanding 58-34 lead by halftime.

“They played at a level that was very high,” Kings coach Keith Smart said of the Clippers. “They have a group of players who play together and they have a bigger purpose with what they are doing and how they are playing, and they show it.”

 

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Blake Griffin says adjustments hurt the Clippers in loss to Hornets

A lack of intensity hurt the Clippers’ chances for a victory Monday, no question about it, but did a change in tactics finish them? Clippers power forward Blake Griffin said he believed some changes made on the fly also were to blame.

“I think we tried to change some things, tried to change our schemes and some things we have been successful at and that hurt us,” Griffin said after scoring a career-low four points on 1-for-9 shooting against the New Orleans Hornets.

“I think we should play teams how we play every team. We made adjustments down the stretch when certain guys hurt us and I think we should have stuck with what we had been doing and what has made us successful.”

Coach Vinny Del Negro went with a smaller lineup, playing center DeAndre Jordan for only 15 minutes, 23 seconds. Del Negro also used Jordan’s backup, Ryan Hollins, for barely eight minutes.

“He wasn’t involved,” Del Negro said of Jordan. “It wasn’t just ‘D.J.’ It was all of our big guys. They weren’t active. They weren’t physical. They didn’t set the tone for us from the start. It’s not just one guy. It’s everybody.”

The Clippers hope to keep things simple Wednesday, when they play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves.


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DeAndre Jordan adding offense to his game for the Clippers

Tomorrow’s story today …

DeAndre Jordan has made seven consecutive free throws.

He’s almost doubled his career scoring average.

Shaquille O’Neal called him the Western Conference’s best center right now.

Jordan’s progress with the basketball in his hands has been so remarkable so far this season and so helpful in balancing the Clippers’ all-too-predictable offense that it’s difficult to select which of the three lines above is more astounding than the others.

Let’s go line by line.

First, the Clippers hired a shooting coach, Bob Thate, to work with Jordan and power forward Blake Griffin to improve their free throw percentages. The Clippers believed Jordan and Griffin gave away points with poor free-throw shooting.

Jordan shot 52.5 percent in 2011-12, a career best, but nothing to brag about. He’s connecting at only 46.7 percent (7 of 15) this season, but he’s made seven in a row going into tonight’s game against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.

So, perhaps Thate’s tutoring is playing dividends.

Second, Jordan’s scoring average is up to 11.3 points after seven games. His career average was a paltry 6.1 points after four seasons as a defense-first center on a team that didn’t ask him to do much offensively.

Jordan has shown a willingness to shoot when in the low post so far this season. He’s displayed a nice touch on his running hooks, confident in his shot with either hand. He’s also been unstoppable at point-blank range, dunking with authority.

Third, O’Neal’s comments came after fellow TNT analyst Steve Kerr addressed the Clippers’ lack of offensive variety last season. Without naming names, Kerr suggested the Clippers relied too heavily on Griffin and point guard Chris Paul.

This season, the Clippers have encouraged Jordan to look for his shot more often.

“We tell ‘D.J.’ he’s a huge part of this team,” Paul said of Jordan, who has scored 20 points or more twice this season and has two other games with 10 points or more. “He knows it, too. To us, he’s one of our most valuable players.”

O’Neal, who knows a thing or two about playing the center position after a Hall of Fame career that included three NBA titles with the Lakers to start the 2000s and a fourth with the Heat, praised Jordan’s play.

“I don’t know what all the other big guys were doing this summer, but I know what DeAndre Jordan was doing. He was working on his game,” O’Neal said during last Thursday’s telecast of the Clippers’ victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

“He’s playing like a real big man, taking his time and going right over the top,” O’Neal continued. “I’m going on the record. The best center in the West right now is DeAndre Jordan. You heard it here first.”

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Clippers fall to Grizz

The final score was 85-68, and it wasn’t pretty. With Eric Gordon out with a sore right now, the Clips didn’t have much offense, as only Blake Griffin (18 points on 8-of-20 shooting) and Nik Caner-Medley (who scored 15 and seven of the game’s first eight) reached double-figures. Full recap and boxscore here.

Where was DeAndre Jordan?

No, really. 28 minutes, but only six rebounds and two points? The second-year man definitely suffered through some growing pains against young Memphis center Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft. Jordan, who turns 21 on Tuesday, also fouled out and committed five turnovers.

In other news, it looks like Marcellus Kemp has been dropped from the roster and replaced by former University of San Diego forward Corey Belser, who was at the mini-camp.

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Griffin’s final line

In 29 minutes, Blake Griffin had 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting and 12 rebounds. He also committed five turnovers and four fouls, but a solid debut nonetheless. Interestingly, he was listed as the center to start the game, although he moved back to the 4 when DeAndre Jordan came in.

Oh, and the Clippers won, 93-82. Full boxscore here.

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Just got done with the Clippers first summer league practice

We’ll have more later, but in the meantime, here’s a few notes:

- Blake Griffin has adjusted his shooting form. Instead of shooting on the way down from his vertical jump as he did in his predraft workout with the Clippers in June, he’s now shooting at the top of his (albeit shorter) jump. It’s a more streamlined jumper, for sure. Griffin: “That’s something we’ve really been working on, shooting on the way up for my jumper, and extending every time and finishing as I’m going up. I feel like I’m shooting a lot better than I did in the workout. It feels really good.”

- Mike Taylor was still a bit out of control at times, but he had a couple of nice alley-oop passes and certainly showed his quickness against former Notre Dame and Ohio State guards Kyle McAlarney and Jamar Butler. Both Griffin and DeAndre Jordan said after the workout that Taylor has pulled them aside and readied them for in-air action by the hoop.

- Jordan has been working on his offensive game. A couple times in the post he pulled nice moves against former Nevada center Kevinn Pinkney, but everything is still in its beginning stages. Jordan: “I’ve been working on my offense, trying to get it right. Even its some small moves, paint shots, I’ve been trying to work on anything besides dunking every time.”

-Eric Gordon didn’t make himself as much a part of the game as you would expect with the other players being of a lower caliber than he’s used to. Still, he didn’t disappoint.

- There were quite a few participants in the mini-camp of sorts who won’t be on the summer league roster: guard Jamar Butler (Ohio State), forwards Korvotney Barber (Auburn), Corey Belser (San Diego), and Travon Bryant (Missouri), and forward/center Kibwe Trim (Sacred Heart).

- Sean Banks was probably the most impressive non-Clipper at today’s workout. He showed his athleticism numerous times in the scrimmage. After leaving Memphis after his sophomore season in 2005, Banks has floated around the basketball scene, including appearances in the summer league, NBDL, and in Puerto Rico and Turkey. He averaged nearly 22 points a game in the 2007-08 season with the L.A. D-Fenders of the NBDL.

- Mike Dunleavy: “We threw a lot of stuff at them in the first practice, but overall picture, as we go through the next couple days we’ll smooth it out. We’ll come back tonight and see what did they grasp, what do they come back with, what do they have the second time, and start doing repetitions to find the places where they were lacking tonight.”

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Dunleavy/Olshey comments on Thursday’s NBA draft

Clippers Head Coach and General Manager Mike Dunleavy and Assistant GM Neil Olshey spoke to the media today about their draft day plans and how the roster might shape up. Surprisingly, very little was focused on the 20-year-old Oklahoma forward they’ve all but confirmed they’re taking at No. 1. Read on for more.

Don’t be surprised if the Clippers swing a trade for a late first or early-second round selection where they could take a “perimeter” guy, as Dunleavy mentioned. Spots to keep an eye on: In the first round, Nos. 33 (which, you may remember, once belonged to the Clippers), 35, 38, 39, 44, 55, 56.

Guys the Clippers are rumored to have thought about and could select if they trade for a second (or third) pick, in alphabetical order:

Chase Budinger, SG, Arizona (failed to live up to his potential in college, but still a lot of upside)
Toney Douglas, SG, Florida State (many liken him to Ben Gordon)
Darren Collison, PG, UCLA (a good bet to have at least some success at the next level)
Wayne Ellington, SG, UNC (good shooter, but not incredibly athletic)
Danny Green, SF, UNC (his ceiling is lower than any of these guys’, but a good role player)
Jack McClinton, PG/SG, Miami (a slightly better version of Daniel Ewing, but more selfish)
Jodie Meeks, SG, Kentucky (a prolific scorer who would’ve benefited greatly from staying for his senior year)
Patty Mills, PG, St. Mary’s (an interesting, score-first point guard who may — or may not — have a first-round guarantee)
Jermaine Taylor, SG, UCF (a poor man’s Eric Gordon)
Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU (more of an undersized 3 than a 2)

Continue reading for the full transcript of both of Dunleavy and Olshey’s interviews.

Continue reading

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