The LA Clippers (22-10) got swept in their season series against the Brooklyn Nets (20-12) last night 112-108 at Staples Center. The Nets were without Kevin Durant but did not seem to need him really, as momentum seemed to be always on their side, maintaining control most of the game. It’s frightening to think how much more the Clips would have lost by had he played. LA had some great performances from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But, they were not enough to overcome the offensive juggernaut that is the Nets. You have to play pretty much perfect basketball in order to even have a chance at defeating them, and the Clippers were far from perfect committing 16 turnovers. LAC never gave up though, and were remarkably able to tie the game in the final minute.
However, a putback bucket from former Clipper DeAndre Jordan put the Nets ahead by 2 with less than 10 seconds to go. When Kawhi scored a tying bucket, it was waived off due to an offensive foul pushing off on James Harden. A terrible call because Harden initiated the contact by holding on to Kawhi’s arm prior. If anything the ref should’ve just swallowed his whistle. But alas, he just had to insert himself into the narrative by giving Brooklyn the game and the Clippers go home dejected.
STAR OF THE GAME
James Harden and his 37 points on 13 out of 25 shooting, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals. Harden got what he wanted by behaving badly and weaseling his way out of Houston. He now looks a different player than he was at the season’s start. There were some questions regarding whether the Nets gave up too much to acquire him, and with whether or not he would fit; but it seems those questions have all been laid to rest. If he continues to play like this, leading his team to a fairly easy road win against one of the League’s best, the Nets will be exactly where they want to be at season’s end.
All criticisms of the guy’s character aside, he is at the top of the top of the pile of elite players in today’s game. When he is in top form he very well be the best offensive player the NBA has to offer. A teammate or two of his may have something to say about that, but it would be hard to argue against him after his play last night. The best defense against him may be to just hope he has a bad game. Unfortunately for the Clippers that was not the case last night.
Turnovers and the free throw shooting. The Clippers were their own worst enemy last night, shooting themselves in the foot by committing 16 turnovers. The Nets are not a great defensive team, so you do not want to help them out on that end. A lot of them were just unforced, careless, silly mistakes. The Nets scored a whopping 27 points off of turnovers, which is just way, way too much. If you score a point per TO, you are doing well, and the Nets nearly doubled that. LAC may have wanted to win too badly. It seemed like their shoes were tied too tight the whole game.
When you play with that much anxiety, the focus is just not where it needs to be. That seemed to be much of their problem last night, and it showed on the free throw line. Altogether they made 13 out of 18 which is not all that terrible. But, against a team like the Nets they could not afford to miss even one. Both Nicolas Batum and Paul George uncharacteristically missed a pair from there. In a game where they lost by 4, those misses were basically the difference. Overall, I am not too worried about it. LAC currently sits at the top of the league in free throw %. I am just concerned if they can make them when the absolutely need to, during clutch moments during big games when the pressure is high.
I’m going to give it one of my favorite Clippers of all time in DeAndre Jordan and his double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. DJ has not played a whole lot this year for the Nets. Their head coach Steve Nash has adopted his assistant coach Mike D’Antoni‘s philosophy of opting to go with a small-ball lineup. So, the Nets start Jeff Green at Center over him. After Green left the game with an arm injury and did not return, DeAndre got the bulk of the minutes going forward.
It paid off for the Nets, because he looked like his former All-Star self. He blocked 4 shots, dunked off of lobs, and scored putbacks. In total he put up 13 points on 6 out of 7 shooting. One of those putbacks proved to be the most important shot of the game, as it was the game-winner. There has been a lot of chatter this year that he is getting old, past his prime, and now over-the-hill. So it was good to see him counter those sentiments by playing so well.
I just wish it hadn’t been against the Clippers.
Vs Washington Wizards, Tuesday, February 23rd at 7:00 PM
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