Jared Dudley – Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Clippers
Jared Dudley has the ability to do some things on the basketball court. As recently as the 2011-12 season he averaged 12.9 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Phoenix Suns – both career-highs. But whereas he averaged 31.1 minutes that season, he averaged just 23.4 this past season for the Clippers, when he averaged 6.9 points and 2.2 rebounds. He did shoot a respectable 36 percent (81 of 225) from 3-point range, however, so he does have value.
Dudley is signed for next season for $4,250,000, so the 6-foot-7 small forward will be back unless he is traded. Just 28 – he’ll be 29 in July – Dudley still has several years left to play. It will be interesting to see what his role is for the Clippers in 2014-15.
The Clippers set a franchise record for victories in 2012-13 with 56. They broke that Tuesday with a 117-105 victory over visiting Denver. This weekend this group of Clippers – meaning the core consisting of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan – together will be heading to the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and reserve forward Jared Dudley is jazzed.
“Last year they had a franchise record, and this year getting that, it shows you what this team is capable of now,” said Dudley, in his first season with the team. “Third time around going back to the playoffs, you bring in someone like (coach) Doc (Rivers) where expectations are higher, a lot of free agents coming in, and now it’s time to get started.
“We have one more game left (Wednesday at Portland) and then the showdown starts. I think the city is excited and I think that for this franchise, it shows that we’re taking big leaps.”
- First and foremost, the Clippers clinched their second consecutive Pacific Division title with this 112-108 victory. Sure, they want much more, but this is still very cool. At 54-22, they are 34 games over .500 and have won 17 of their past 19 games and went 4-1 on this just-concluded road trip ahead of Thursday’s game against Dallas at Staples Center.
- It’s good to see Jared Dudley contributing the way he is right now because strong benches are needed for long playoff runs. He scored 16 points while spelling an ailing Blake Griffin on Monday in a win at Minnesota. With Griffin back, Dudley played 24 minutes off the bench Wednesday and scored 12 points and made all six of his free throws, including the two that basically sealed the Suns’ fate. These back-to-back double-digit games are Dudley’s first since he scored 10 points Jan. 15 against Dallas.
- Chris Paul is Mr. Clutch. His 30-plus foot 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire with 1:48 to play put the Clippers up 108-106, a lead they did not relinquish. Paul had 20 points and nine assists. He did not have a good shooting night – going 6-for-17 from the field – but he came through at the most important time. Like superstars do. Oh, he was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Not too shabby at all.
- As for Griffin, you could tell at times that his back was bothering him. Kudos to him for working through it. Sometimes that’s the best thing for a bad back. He played 34 minutes and after a slow start shooting, he ended up going 7 of 15 from the field and he made 9 of 10 free throws for 23 points. He had six rebounds – low for him – and three assists.
- Finally, and most importantly, the Clippers once again showed they are a team that has that proverbial “Ninth-inning magic.” They were down by 17 points in the third quarter after having trailed by just two points (62-60) at halftime. They were on the road, playing against a Phoenix team fighting for its playoff life. And they come back and took the Suns’ heart right away from them. Victories like these are the kind of which championships are made.