Clippers and Ducks Unchanged After Two Weeks
What the hell have I missed the last couple of weeks while traipsing across the country on a road trip? Aside from the Kings starting to win games, nothing much has changed.
The Clippers have been rolling right along in their season. They had a big setback in their first game back form the All Star break, a 125-101 beatdown by the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. But they have bounced right back with wins at home against Utah and Charlotte and a win at Indiana yesterday.
Tonight they faced off against the Cavaliers in Cleveland a place they have not won since 2002. In the fourth game of the season the Clippers curiously lost to the Cavs 108-101. So it wasn't like this game would be a slam dunk for the Clippers.
Fortunately there was no such let down in Cleveland against a team that was without wunderkind guard Kyrie Irving for a third consecutive game. The Clippers beat the Cavs 105-89 which makes it sound like a complete beat down, but the Cavs didn't let the game get away from them until the final seven minutes.
The Cavs had cut the Clippers lead to 13 points and looking to cut it to 11 with Cody Zeller at the line. In came Chris Paul and Blake Griffin after Zeller made one of the two free throws to cut the lead to 87-75. In a blink of an eye, Jamal Crawford hit a bailout three-pointer and Paul hit one of his own. In less than a minute the Clippers controlled the game with an 18-point lead.
Griffin added a steal, and alley-oop dunk. The Clippers had a 99-76 lead with 4:19 left in the game. Less than three minutes after Griffin and Paul were put in to reassert control of the game, all of the starters were subbed out and the Clippers cruised down the stretch for the victory.
Not everything was roses for the Clippers. Perhaps the most befuddling player to watch in the game was Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe hurt his left calf in the game against the Spurs and hasn't looked the same since. He refused wide open lanes to the bucket in favor of jump shots. As a result he scored only four points, his first points coming on a jump shot in the fourth quarter.
Starting in place of Irving was former Clipper Shaun Livingston. He managed 10 points in 26 minutes, but not a second went by in that game when his horrific knee injury did not creep into my thoughts.
It's all well and good that the Clippers have regained their footing against these lesser teams. They will get a good test at home on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Hopefully we'll get answers to some questions:
Just how good is the Clippers defense? The Clippers have done a good job of blocking shots and clogging passing lanes against teams that have one scorer at best. How will they fare against the Thunder?
With all the scoring the Thunder does, how will the Clippers half-court offense look? Inevitably the Clippers are not going to stonewall the Thunder the entire game. The Clippers half-court offense has been questioned and pretty much laughed at. So has it gotten any better? If they have any thoughts of challenging the Miami Heat for the title, they better hope it's gotten better.
Can the Clippers beat the Thunder? The Clippers have yet to beat the Thunder this season. They lost in Oklahoma City 117-111 in overtime back in November and were trounced 109-97 at home back in January. This is the final opportunity for the Clippers to save some face.
Meanwhile in Anaheim the Ducks just kept on the pressure. Sitting in the sports book at Luxor on Wednesday, I just laughed as they put a 5-1 hurting on the Nashville Predators.
Against the Minnesota Wild, the Ducks showed no signs of easing up. Trailing only the Chicago Blackhawks in the standings, who have yet to lose a game in regulation, the Ducks got a quick start in the first period taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne.
Matt Beleskey pushed the lead to 3-0 midway through the second period, and it looked like the Ducks could coast through to another victory. They did coast in the third period, and the Wild made them pay. Kyle Brodziak scored an unassisted goal early in the third, and Devin Setoguchi got the Wild to within one midway in the third.
Things got even more heady as the Ducks had to kill a penalty with just under four minutes remaining. Fortunately Jonas Hiller was just the man for the Ducks in the crease as the Ducks clung on to the 3-2 victory.
The Ducks head to Phoenix where they play the Coyotes tomorrow just a hop, skip and jump away from Camelback Ranch where the Dodgers are playing their fake baseball for now. It will be a day of horse racing and hockey tomorrow.
It's also nice to know that after logging more than 3,000 miles from California to Arizona to New Mexico to Texas to Louisiana, to Texas, to Oklahoma, back to Texas, to New Mexico, to Arizona, to Nevada, to California, I didn't miss a whole lot.