Five things to take from Clippers’ 115-109 Game 2 loss to the Rockets

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, NBA.com

 

– Remember Game 1 when the Rockets held a 13-point lead in the second quarter and the Clippers came back and got them? Well, the Clippers held a 13-point lead early in the third quarter of this one, and the Rockets came back and got them. It just goes to show how quickly the momentum can change. That’s why staying focused on the task at hand 100 percent of the time is so darn important. Think about it. The Clippers outscored the Rockets 41-21 in the second quarter and once they took that 13-point lead, they appeared almost a cinch to come back to L.A. up 2-0 in the series. They had all the momentum, the Rockets appeared bewildered and their fans were really bummed out. Poof, just like magic, the Rockets started to roll.

Jamal Crawford had his fourth poor shooting night in nine playoff games. He made just 6 of 22 from the field, 1 of 8 from 3-point range. He is now shooting 37.3 percent in the postseason, just 21.7 percent (10 of 46) from 3-point range. He has to be better. He did have five rebounds and five assists to go with his 19 points.

– The Clippers were whistled for 40 personal fouls to 27 for Houston. The Rockets were 42 of 64 (65.6 percent) from the free-throw line, the Clippers 25 of 32 (78.1 percent). Doc Rivers did not blast the officials afterward, but he jokingly said, “They shot 117 free throws tonight.” Some of them were because of intentional fouls.

Blake Griffin scored 26 points in the first half on 11 of 14 shooting and appeared on his way to 40 points or more. But he was just 2 of 9 in the second half for eight points and a total of 34. Sure, Griffin still had a solid game. The Rockets made some adjustments, the Clippers kept going to Griffin and the results were not good.

– If the Clippers had won this game to take a 2-0 series lead, we might have been saying the Clippers could afford to set Chris Paul one more game to make sure he’s good for the next round. But if he’s close to 100 percent, he needs to play because the Clippers needs him – plain and simple. And he will because he has plenty of heart. This was a season-saving victory for the Rockets. And if they steal one at Staples Center, they’ll have back their homecourt advantage and that could be dangerous.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 117-101 Game 1 victory over Houston

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, NBA.com

Blake Griffin took charge in the absence of point guard Chris Paul, who sat out Game 1 with a hamstring injury sustained in Game 7 of the Clippers’ first-round victory over San Antonio, won by the hobbled Paul with a last-second shot. Griffin had his second consecutive triple-double, going for 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Doesn’t get much better than that. Yes, he had five turnovers. Big deal. The man was the point forward out there and handled the ball a lot.

– Good job by J.J. Redick. He had zero points in the first half, missing all four of his field-goal attempts – three of those from the 3-point line. He scored 17 points in the second half, going 6 of 9 – 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

– Terrific game by Matt Barnes. He scored 20 points on 8 of 11 from the field – 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. He also had five rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocked shots. Other than that, he didn’t do a thing. He also got into some verbal sparring with Rockets fans. That’s never good, but you have just got to love the emotion with which he plays. Barnes also had a fine showing in Game 7 against the Spurs. If he stays on a roll, and Paul comes back healthy, the Clippers will likely have too many weapons for the Rockets.

– It was kind of interesting that on a night when Rockets fans were chanting “MVP, MVP,” when James Harden made a shot, Harden had nine turnovers. That’s an enormous amount for one game by a player of his stature. Harden did have 20 points, 12 assists and four steals. But some of that was negated by his inability to take care of the ball. Harden this week finished second to Golden State’s Steph Curry in the MVP voting.

– Griffin wasn’t the only player to pick up the slack in Paul’s absence. Jamal Crawford scored 18 points with five rebounds, four assists and two steals while handling the ball more than usual. He did have six turnovers. DeAndre Jordan had 10 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and four blocks. And Austin Rivers, son of Doc, started in Paul’s place and went for 17 points. He only had three assists, but he came up with four steals. This is what you call a team pulling together when it’s quarterback was not available to guide them.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 114-105 victory over Spurs in Game 4

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, NBA.com

 

– It was kind of ironic that coach Doc Rivers became a bit perturbed about being asked – once again – about the lack of a good bench at the pregame news conference at AT&T Center. Then his son, Austin, goes out and has the game of his life with 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting while also playing solid defense. He did all this in 17 absolutely terrific minutes.

– Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin said that without the younger Rivers, the Clippers would not have won this game. They are probably right. Then again, Paul and Griffin both had monster games. Paul scored 34 points and shot 11 of 19 while doling out seven assists. Griffin scored 20 points and was a beast on the boards with 19 rebounds; he, too, had seven assists. So you could also say that if either one of those two has a mediocre game, the Clippers don’t win this one.

DeAndre Jordan didn’t score much in this one, going for six points. But he had 14 rebounds and four blocked shots that helped the Clippers, setting the tone for a stronger defensive effort than in Game 3, when the Clippers were destroyed by 27 points.

– Another key element to this win was J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford getting their shooting back on track. Redick had shot 10 of 32 in the first three games, but shot 6 of 12 in this one for 17 points. Crawford was 12 of 34 the first three games, and shot 6 of 13 for 15 points in this one. Again, the Clippers needed every bit of that.

– If you’re a Spurs fan, don’t blame Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker for San Antonio’s loss. Duncan scored 22 points with 14 rebounds, Leonard had 26 points and seven rebounds. Parker scored 18 points. The other two starters – Tiago Splitter and Danny Green – shot a combined 0 of 11. Splitter was 0 of 5, Green 0 of 6. All of Green’s misses were from 3-point range. Ouch! Neither player went to the free-throw line, either.

Jamal Crawford speaks in philosophical tones about his shooting struggles

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, NBA.com

 

Jamal Crawford had a terrific Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs in their best-of-seven first-round Western Conference playoff series. He scored 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting – 3 of 4 from 3-point range. But he has shot a combined 5 of 24 the past two games – both Clippers losses – 1 of 10 from behind the 3-point line.

Crawford on Saturday was philosophical about his struggles as he spoke to reporters at the team hotel in downtown San Antonio near The Alamo.

“It happens,” Crawford said. “It really does. The shots I got, I hope I get those same shots tomorrow, honestly. They were good shots, they weren’t anything rushed or force, or anything – shots I make 90 percent of the time, in my mind.”

The Clippers and Spurs square off in Game 4 on Sunday at AT&T Center. San Antonio is up 2-1.

Five things to take from Clippers’ 100-73 Game 3 loss to San Antonio Spurs

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, NBA.com

 

– When Jamal Crawford is in a groove, he can be as deadly from the field as anyone. But after shooting 1 of 11 in this one, he is a combined 5 of 24 over the past two games – 1 of 10 from beyond the arc. This needs to change in a hurry, as in Game 4 Sunday.

– Another shooter, J.J. Redick, is also struggling. He is now shooting 31.2 percent from the field (10 of 32) in the series after going 2 of 7 in this massacre. The Clippers need Redick to be closer to the guy who had the best regular season of his nine-year career.

– To be clear, Crawford and Redick were not the only poor shooters in this loss. Blake Griffin was 6 of 15, Chris Paul 3 of 11. As a team, the Clippers shot 34.1 percent, 26.1 percent from 3-point range. Doc Rivers himself said the loss was more about his team’s “awful” offense than their defense that cost them the game. We should note, however, that the Spurs shot 52.6 percent from the field, so that was in play, too.

– We heard it a lot that the Clippers’ bench can’t stack up with San Antonio’s. Clippers reserves scored 30 points, but much of that was during garbage time. Crawford scored just five points before garbage time. The Spurs, on the other hand, got 15 big points, seven rebounds and four assists from Boris Diaw in 23 terrific minutes; six points from Patty Mills and nine from Marco Belinelli.

Matt Barnes has had a rather lousy series. He’s averaging 5.7 points and shooting 30 percent from the field. But at least in Game 2 – when he shot 1 of 10 – he had 10 rebounds. Barnes had zero rebounds in this game. Guarding Kawhi Leonard – or trying to – is killing the rest of his game.

Sixth-man Jamal Crawford is no longer in a funk with his shooting rhythm

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers, NBA.com

 

Not that Jamal Crawford is the type to lose confidence, but he had to have breathed a sign of relief after his performance in Sunday’s 107-92 victory over the defending NBA-champion San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series at Staples Center.

Crawford scored 17 points. More importantly, he shot 7 of 10 from the field – 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Considering he had made just 10 of 36 shots (27.7 percent) in the final four regular-season games after missing the previous 17 with a calf injury, that was more than noteworthy. That’s probably why Crawford couldn’t stop smiling afterward.

“Me and Chris (Paul) talk about it all the time,” Crawford said. “We’re consumed in basketball every single day of our lives. To be out five weeks and not be able to do anything but watch, I mean, you can take some good things from it.

“But it was more bad than good for me because you want to be out there so bad and help your team and just be part of the guys. … The injury is one thing, then coming back and conditioning and trying to get a rhythm, all that stuff sucks. But you’ve go to go through the process sometimes.”

Game 2 is Wednesday night at Staples Center.