As a result of all the recent injuries, Doc Rivers has had to rely on Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and Willie Green much more than he would like, and the Clippers’ 3-point shooting and perimeter defense has fallen off dramatically over the last few games. The hope is that the 35-year-old Jackson can provide temporary production as a rotational stopgap and, potentially, become a mainstay when the postseason rolls around.
The next month will serve as an audition for Jackson, who reportedly was let go by the San Antonio Spurs last season because he wouldn’t accept a diminished bench role.
With Jackson making his season debut against the Boston Celtics Wednesday, here is a scouting report of how he fits with the Clippers:
Jackson remains a potent, though streaky, offensive weapon.
Similar to Jamal Crawford, his greatest offensive strength is his ability to create shots from nearly any spot on the floor, even if they’re not always high-percentage looks. Age has sapped some of his athleticism and ability to beat defenders off the dribble, but he can still attack defenses off of weak-side closeouts and either finish at the rim or pass out to shooters.
Despite his transformation into more of a spot-up shooter with the Spurs (60 percent of his baskets have been assisted the last three years), he’s a below-average threat from beyond the arc -- he’s a career 33.4 percent 3-point shooter and has been below 29 percent each of the last two seasons. He’ll need to regain his shooting touch to be effective in the Clippers’ offense, as he’ll most likely be stationed in the corners and running the baseline on most sets.
The most underrated part of Jackson’s game is his passing ability. He’s not always a willing passer -- he can go through bouts of tunnel vision -- but he’s been an above-average distributor when surrounded by talented supporting casts.
Given his lanky 6-8 frame and general fearlessness, Jackson is also capable of sliding over to power forward in small ball lineups and acting as a pseudo-point forward. Therefore, it’s possible Rivers could use him as a secondary ball-handler to aid Crawford and Darren Collison.
Defensively, Jackson uses his considerable length to gain leverage when closing out on shooters or trailing players off screens or cuts. For his career, Jackson averages 1.5 steals per 36 minutes, as his wingspan allows him to gamble and play passing lanes. He’s also an above-average defensive rebounder for a wing, which is a key reason why he can play as a big man in smaller lineups.
His athletic decline is most obvious on the defensive end, however, as he’s susceptible to getting blown by -- especially when guarding smaller, quicker wings. His feet are slower and he can’t stop on a dime the way he used to, which causes him to often close out too hard. As such, he’s better suited just sticking to both forward spots and avoiding defending guards.
Jackson is a fiery trash-talker who sometimes dishes out hard fouls and isn’t afraid to mix it up with opponents. It shouldn’t be a surprise if Jackson comes to the defense of Blake Griffin, who is normally fouled unnecessarily hard once or twice a game.
Jackson’s size and energy are two assets the Clippers are in need of defensively. He isn’t an individual stopper at the level of Barnes or Jared Dudley, but he’s bigger than the rest of L.A.’s wings, and gives Rivers another tool to experiment with. He also adds a level of rugged toughness and locker room leadership that few players can provide.
Stats used in this post are from ESPN.com, NBA.com/stats, 82games.com, MySynergySports.com and Hoopdata.com.
The open looks were there for the Los Angeles Clippers, but their shots just weren’t falling against the Philadelphia 76ers.
And then the second half started.
First, Blake Griffin made a 17-foot jumper. Then Jared Dudley hit a 19-foot shot. On the next possession, Dudley nailed a 3-pointer in the right corner. Soon, the Clippers’ lead ballooned to 21 points. By the time the third-quarter onslaught was over, the Clippers had scored 32 points on 61 percent shooting, extending their lead to 16.
The 76ers made a late rally in the fourth, cutting the lead to as few as seven points, but Griffin and Chris Paul sealed the victory with clutch baskets down the stretch and two key defensive plays -- a charge and a blocked shot -- by Griffin. When the buzzer sounded, the Clippers walked away with a 94-83 win to bring their disappointing record on the seven-game road trip to 2-2.
Their third-quarter performance notwithstanding, the Clippers’ offense has been cause for concern recently -- especially from deep. For the fifth time in their past six games, L.A. failed to shoot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc, going just 5 of 27 on 3-pointers (18.5 percent) against the 28th-ranked 76ers defense.
The Clippers’ defensive effort was encouraging -- it was the third straight game they held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting -- but until they can figure out a way to consistently produce on both sides of the floor, expect their roller-coaster results to continue. The injuries certainly don’t help matters, of course. Perhaps Paul said it best after the team's 88-82 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday: “We’re consistently inconsistent right now.”
How it happened: The Clippers cranked up the pace early, pushing the ball in transition regardless of whether the 76ers made or missed. They couldn’t buy a basket in the first half (they shot just 35.6 percent), but their third-quarter barrage gave them enough cushion to withstand the 76ers’ late run. The Clippers didn’t shoot well overall (42.7 percent), but they overcame that by holding Philadelphia to just 35.9 percent shooting.
What it means: Facing the 25th-best offense and 28th-best defense -- the 76ers’ offensive and defensive ratings heading into Monday night’s game -- can do wonders for a struggling ball club, so the Clippers shouldn’t pat themselves on the back just yet.
While the road trip is far from ideal so far, the Clippers can at least take solace in the fact that their next three opponents (Boston, Brooklyn, Washington) have a 25-37 combined record. With the signing of veteran swingman Stephen Jackson reportedly on the horizon, L.A.’s depleted wing crop could benefit from the additional size and 3-point shooting.
Hits: Griffin bounced back from his season-low 10 points against the Cavaliers, scoring 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and blocking three shots.
Paul had 25 points and 13 assists. DeAndre Jordan added 11 points and 21 rebounds.
The Clippers held the 76ers to a season-low 83 points, including a season-low 36 points in the first half.
Misses: The Clippers almost blew their lead in the fourth, in large part due to their six turnovers. They had only six throughout the first three quarters.
Jared Dudley and Willie Green combined to shoot 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) on 3s.
Stat of the game: 14.3 percent. The Clippers may not have shot well from deep, but they forced the 76ers into 3-of-21 shooting from there.
Up next: The Clippers have Tuesday off before facing the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, which marks Doc Rivers’ emotional and long-awaited return to Beantown. The reunion continues on Thursday, as the Clippers travel north to face the Brooklyn Nets and, most likely, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the first time.
Jamison is just five points shy of 20,000 in his career. Sometime this week, perhaps even tonight in Philadelphia, he will become one of only 20 players in NBA history to reach 20,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Out of the previous 19 players to hit those numbers, only Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are active and of the 16 other players to do so only Shaquille O’Neal, who retired two years ago, has yet to be enshrined in the hall of fame.
“I didn’t find out until somebody told me after the game,” Jamison said. “I’ve been blessed to play 16 years and to be able to accomplish that says a lot but I don’t really think about. To sit back and think about all the things I’ve been through, all the ups and downs, and being able to produce year in and year out, it’s rewarding.”
It’s only a matter of time before Garnett, Duncan, Nowitzki and O’Neal are in the hall of fame but what about Jamison? Will he be the only player to hit that lofty career stat line and fail to be inducted? Jamison understands it’s far from a lock but hopes his numbers and the company he’s in will put him in the conversation.
“Everybody who plays this game would love to be in that category,” Jamison said. “That would be awesome. You look at my career and hopefully the numbers will say that. To have those numbers with the guys who do have them in the hall of fame speaks volumes. It’s a dream and hopefully it comes true.”
It’s hard to make the argument that Jamison should be in the hall of fame if you just looked at his past two seasons in Los Angeles; last season with the Lakers and this season with the Clippers. Jamison signed with both teams in the hopes of winning his first championship and is obviously still optimistic that this season with the Clippers will eventually turn out better than last season’s disappointing run with the Lakers.
Jamison had averaged nearly 20 points per game during his career before signing with the Lakers last season. He had averaged 17.2 points per game as a starter with Cleveland the previous season and was viewed as a perfect sixth man for the Lakers after they had also added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. He could have signed a three-year, $11 million deal with his hometown Charlotte Bobcats and padded his stats before retiring but instead signed a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum ($1.4 million) to chase a ring with the Lakers, and did the same this season with the Clippers.
But last season not only didn’t go as planned for the Lakers, it didn’t go as planned for Jamison who didn’t play in nine games, not because he wasn’t healthy, but because Mike D’Antoni simply didn’t want to play him. He suffered through five consecutive “DNP-CD” games in late December for the first time in his career and openly wondered if he done something wrong.
“There was no communication,” Jamison said of last season. “Just not knowing what’s going on. It was tough, especially with the team not producing the way we should have. I know [D’Antoni] was put in a difficult situation last year and he was trying things out but everything that could’ve gone wrong went wrong last year. I didn’t know what my role was or an understanding of what he wanted. That’s the biggest difference between this year and last year.”
As bad as last season was for Jamison, statistically this season has been even worse. In fact, he’s on pace to have the worst season of his career, by far, but he’s fine with it. After not playing the first 14 games of the season, Jamison has played in the last seven straight. He is averaging 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
The biggest reason Jamison has a smile on his face while sitting on the bench this season as opposed to last season is he knew what his role would be this season with the Clippers. When he sat down with Doc Rivers in the offseason, Rivers laid out exactly how he planned to use him this season.
“I was very honest with him and up front,” Rivers said. “I told him up front if you’re coming here to start or play a ton of minutes, that’s not going to happen. I don’t want to overuse you and he was fine with that. I said my plan is to preserve you. You’re a freaking antique. So we’re going to put the polish him and keep him shining and make him look good.”
After a season where he thought he could potentially win Sixth Man of the Year for a championship contender, Jamison was simply happy to know what his role would be before the season began.
“He told me, ‘Antawn, I need you here for the playoffs. I know what you can do," Jamison said. "This team won 56 games without you last year and I think they can do the same thing without you, but most importantly I need you healthy for the second half of the seasons and the playoffs.’ I knew right then what my role was. It wasn’t about the regular season. It was about my health and making sure when the important season comes around at the end of April and going into May and June that I’m healthy and can contribute."
Jamison’s role has increased recently with the struggles of Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins as well as injuries to J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock. They’ve needed Jamison to do more as he did in Memphis last week when he had a season-high 11 points and 4 rebounds in the Clippers’ 101-81 win over the Grizzlies.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play him in the Memphis game because I want to avoid the back-to-backs but he said he was fine,” Rivers said. “It’s so early in the season and we didn’t play him early, I felt like I could play him as much as you want on this trip. But I’m going to be real careful with him. When you’re old like him you can wake up in bed and hurt your foot.”
Jamison laughs when he hears jokes about his age now. Players on the Clippers call him, “16” in reference to how many seasons he’s been in the league and he shakes his head when he’s told Bullock, sitting next to him in the locker room, was just seven years old when he made his NBA debut. Jamison is content with his new role in the twilight of his career as he reaches a personal milestone that will put him in the same company of players that have had hall of fame careers but more importantly have won a title. That’s the final goal Jamison has before he retires.
“I could have been in a situation where I was playing more but I wanted to be on a championship caliber team,” Jamison said. “I knew I would have to take a lesser role and I’m OK with that. I knew what I was sacrificing to do that. I told myself when my last contract was over, for the next 2-3 years I want to really chase a championship and that’s what I’m doing.”
Rookie forward Reggie Bullock, who was playing extended minutes in the absence of Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick, went down with a left ankle sprain early in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 88-82 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
X-rays on Bullock’s ankle came back negative but he’ll be evaluated further on Sunday. Bullock was wearing a walking boot on his left leg after the game and said trainers told him that it’s probably a high ankle sprain. No timetable was given, but high ankle sprain are known to sideline players for about a month or so.
“I tried to go to the boards to get a rebound and tried to avoid stepping on a player and came down and twisted my ankle,” Bullock said. “I rolled my ankle as I came down.”
Barnes, who was already supposed to be out two weeks after having surgery to repair a torn retina in his left eye on Nov. 21, had “clean-up” surgery on the eye this week and could be out for two more weeks.
Reddick suffered a fracture in the small bone of his right hand and a tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament. The Clippers announced he’d be expected to miss six to eight weeks before they left for their seven-game road trip on Monday.
The lack of bodies means the Clippers may be in the market for a player to sign soon.
“We would have to look somewhere,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Let’s hope not, but my guess is yes. I don’t know where we’re going to go. If you guys have any names, call me and let me know. I’ll be on the phone tonight with Gary [Sacks] and Gerald [Madkins] and Dave Wohl [of the Clippers], and I’m praying they know somebody. We’ll see. You never know.”
A possible candidate currently available is former Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown, a free agent who played for Clippers associate head coach Alvin Gentry while they were with the Phoenix Suns.
DeAndre Jordan, who suffered a strained right arch in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, didn’t return. But Jordan and Rivers didn’t think it would prevent him from playing next week.
“I was going to put D.J. back in, but the way he walked to the table I don’t know,” Rivers said. “He was limping so I thought that wouldn’t be a good idea. I think he’ll be fine in the short run.”
Jordan said he thought he could have returned to the game but understood Rivers’ decision and hopes to play in the Clippers’ next game on Monday in Philadelphia.
“I just wanted to help us anyway I could, but at the end of the day it’s Doc’s decision,” Jordan said. “He’s going to make the decision he feels is going to help our team. He wants to win just as bad as we do, but I’m walking so I feel good.”
CLEVELAND -- At some point during the Los Angeles Clippers’ seven-game, two-week road trip they might play like they’re one of the better teams in the West and overpower one of the lesser teams in the East.
Maybe, but it certainly wasn’t on Saturday, as the Clippers lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 88-82, dropping the second of three games on their road trip to date and losing their third straight game against an Eastern Conference opponent.
Much like their loss against the Atlanta Hawks a couple of days ago, the Clippers seemed completely uninterested in playing a below-.500 team in the East -- and it showed. They briefly took a two-point lead in the first half but the Cavaliers controlled the action for much of the night.
How it happened: It happened the same way it always happens for the Clippers: breakdowns on defense, inconsistency on offense and a general apathy to playing the game. The Clippers might not be a championship contender but they’re certainly better than the Cavaliers, although you wouldn’t know that by watching them play on Saturday.
What it means: The Clippers are now 1-2 around the midway point of their seven-game road trip and have lost three straight games against the Eastern Conference. The Clippers now have the third worst record against the East of Western Conference teams and are currently a fifth seed at the quarter point of the season and just a half game up on the seventh seed.
Hits: Chris Paul had 13 points, 15 assists and 7 rebounds, while DeAndre Jordan registered 12 points and 13 rebounds. They were the only two starters who played well for much of the game.
Misses: Blake Griffin had his worst game of the season with the quietest 10 points and 10 rebounds you’ll see from him this season. He had five points and four rebounds in the first quarter and was a non-factor the rest of the way. It was a frustrating night for Griffin on both sides of the ball as he got into a confrontation with Anderson Varejao, who had 17 rebounds and six points on the night.
Stat of the game: The Clippers not only shot 32.2 percent from the field (28-for-87) but hit only 20 percent from 3-point range (7-for-35). It was their worst shooting performance of the season.
Up next: The Clippers are off on Sunday before playing the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. It’s the first meeting of the season between the Clippers and 76ers. The Clippers swept the season series against Philadelphia last season.
MEMPHIS -- Before the Los Angeles Clippers took the court Thursday night to play the Memphis Grizzlies, they gathered as a team in the visitor's locker room and lowered their heads in a moment of silence for the death of Nelson Mandela.
No one in the locker room had ever met Mandela but their connection to him and his teachings grew in training camp when Kita "Thierry" Matungulu joined the Clippers coaching staff for a month, as he had done when Doc Rivers was with the Boston Celtics.
Rivers never met Mandela but credits him with embodying and popularizing the philosophy he used to win his first and only NBA title, in 2008.
In 2002, Rivers was at a fundraising event in New York when he was sitting at a table with Matungulu, who helped found Hoops 4 Hope, a South African basketball organization that helps teach kids about sports and life skills. During the conversation, he told Rivers about Ubuntu.
Ubuntu, according to Mandela, doesn’t have a singular meaning, but is a word that embodies respect, unselfishness, sharing and community, among other things. It’s an unspoken bond and understanding among people.
“In the old days when we were young, a traveler would stop at a village,” Mandela once explained. “And he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food. That is one aspect of Umbutu, but it has various aspects.”
Ubuntu would become the rallying cry of the Celtics during the 2007-08 season. They would gather in a circle with their arms raised and hands together before every game and yell, “Ubuntu!” before taking the floor. When they went on to win the championship that season, “Ubuntu” was inscribed into their championship rings.
Matungulu has spoken to Rivers’ teams for the past 10 seasons and spent training camp with the Clippers in October.
When Mandela died on Thursday, Matungulu reached out to Rivers, and many of his messages to the team, inspired by Mandela, once again resonated with the players in the locker room.
“He’s the guy that introduced Umbutu to me, and that’s the term that I use,” Rivers said. “Kita’s in South Africa, and he sent me a long email today and so we were conversing. ... It’s important for our players to know who [Mandela] was. He may be the important figure in our lifetime that I can think of as far as making world change.”
Rivers has been cautious not to reference his time with Boston when he coaches the Clippers. He believes this is a different team that will respond to different messages, but Ubuntu is unique. While the Clippers don’t break huddles with it or have it written on dry-erase boards, it is a philosophy they have embraced under Rivers.
“Umbutu works in life,” River said. “It works for everybody. It doesn’t have to be basketball. I’m not selling it with this team yet, but it is something that’s important for all of us. It’s about being resilient and sharing the joy with your teammate when he’s doing well and feeling the pain when your teammate is feeling bad. All of that is important.”
After the Clippers’ 101-81 win over the Grizzlies on Thursday night, the Clippers returned to the visitor's locker room at FedEx Forum with a distinctly different mood than they had the previous night after losing in Atlanta. During the course of an 82-game season, messages come and go, philosophies wane and goals sometimes take a backseat to apathy on the road.
There was a different feeling, however, in the Clippers' locker room before and after Thursday's game, and that carried over onto the court. Matungulu’s messages to the Clippers during training camp, which might have been forgotten two months later, were as fresh as ever when the game started.
“I was reminded about that today,” Blake Griffin said. “When one person eats, we all eat. It’s that philosophy of not caring who has the good game or who gets the shots or who gets the glory.”
It might seem simplistic, but for a young team that hasn’t won anything yet, that selfless attitude is often easier talked about than displayed when the game starts.
“He talked to us how it’s all about the team,” Paul said. “No one person can do it alone. I don’t care who you are or what team it is -- there hasn’t been a championship team that just had one guy doing it. It takes a team, and that’s what we’re trying to do. Kita was so inspirational when he was here, and hopefully he’ll be back before the season is over.
"Doc reminded us before the game. He talked about Mandela. Obviously, we’re playing basketball and that’s not as important as other issues that are going on in the world, but his message was huge.”
It wasn’t exactly the Clippers’ best offensive game of the season. In fact, the 40 points scored in the first half was their fewest in any half this season. But Thursday was a night when the Clippers wanted to shore up a defense that was dreadful against the Atlanta Hawks.
Not only did the win snap the Clippers’ two-game losing streak, but also their five-game losing streak against Memphis dating back to last season’s playoffs.
How it happened: The Clippers were trailing for much of the first half and the beginning of the third quarter before they took control of the game midway through the third quarter when Blake Griffin tied the game on a dunk and Chris Paul put the Clippers ahead for good. The Clippers would go up by as many as 20 points and allowed Paul and Griffin to sit the fourth quarter.
What it means: After losing back-to-back games, the Clippers escaped losing three straight for the first time under Doc Rivers and also split the first two games on their seven-game road trip. Their past five games are against teams below .500 in the East.
Hits: DeAndre Jordan had 10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. He was the captain of the Clippers’ defense and was constantly talking to his teammates, something that was missing in Atlanta.
Chris Paul had 15 points and eight assists, while Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford came off the bench and scored 15 points apiece for the Clippers.
Misses: Not a whole lot went wrong for the Clippers on Thursday, but Willie Green continues to struggle as the starting shooting guard. Against Memphis, he had five points, went 3-for-8 from the field and missed his only 3-point attempt.
Stat of the game: The Clippers are not known as a great free-throw shooting team, but they shot them well on Thursday. In fact, Griffin has shot them well recently, hitting 12 straight, including going 4-for-4 on Thursday. The Clippers made 77.8 percent of their free throws. Even Jordan hit two of his four attempts.
Up next: The Clippers have a day off after their road back-to-back before traveling to play the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. It’s the first matchup of the season between these two teams and between Paul and Kyrie Irving this season. The Cavaliers, who are 6-12, have won two back-to-back games over Chicago and Denver and play at Atlanta on Friday.
ATLANTA -- Doc Rivers wasn’t with the Los Angeles Clippers last season when they lost four straight games in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies.
That minor detail, however, has never stopped him from saying "we" when talking about last season’s team and last season’s shortcomings in the playoffs.
"I own them. They're mine now. I adopted them," Rivers said. "The minute I said I'm the Clippers' coach, any problems that we had are my problems."
One of the biggest problems facing the Clippers last season, and this season, are the Memphis Grizzlies. Not only did they defeat the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs last season, but they beat them in the first meeting this season at Staples Center.
"Forget last year," Rivers said. "Last year shouldn’t matter to us anymore. They beat us at our place. That’s what should matter. If we’re thinking about last year, we’re already wrong. We should think that they walked into our building and beat our butts. We should come in and want to play. That doesn’t mean you win, but we should come in ready to play."
Coming in ready to play has been easier said than done for the Clippers this season. They’ve pointed to apathy and a lack of energy after many of their losses. Neither should be a factor in Memphis. Then again, after losing two straight games, the Clippers seemed more interested in getting a win, regardless of the opponent, and not suffering their first three-game losing streak of the season.
"[Last season] has absolutely nothing to do with it," Chris Paul said. "We just want to win, regardless of who it is or where it is."
Blake Griffin said he wasn’t even aware Thursday would be his first time back in Memphis since last season’s playoff loss until he was asked about it Wednesday night.
"We’ve played there so many times," Griffin said. "That hadn’t even crossed my mind at all. It’s an important game for us, especially after we’ve dropped two games in a row."
ATLANTA -- Before the Los Angeles Clippers embarked on their seven-game road trip, Chris Paul smiled when he was asked about the goal of this trip.
"You can’t win them all without winning the first one," he said.
Well, after Wednesday’s 107-97 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Clippers won’t be winning them all. In fact, if they don’t start playing some defense, they might have to wait awhile for their next road win.
The Clippers have constantly battled apathy and defensive lapses when playing lesser teams this season, but Wednesday was one of their worst efforts of the season. The Clippers scored just 70 points through three quarters against the 9-10 Hawks and never seemed into the game.
"We can’t waltz into games. We know that," coach Doc Rivers said. "In this league, if you waltz into any game, you can lose. That’s a fact. Every game is an individual game. I try not to get too high and low with that stuff."
The Clippers don’t have to get too high or too low for games, but whatever middle ground they’re at right now is not working.
How it happened: The Clippers flew into Atlanta on Monday to acclimate themselves to the time change, but that didn’t seem to matter much as the Hawks controlled the tempo of the game. The Hawks led by as many 17 points, and every time the Clippers tried to mount a comeback, Atlanta answered with a 3-pointer. The Hawks hit 12-of-23 from downtown, while the Clippers were just 4-for-19 and 1-for-12 through three quarters from 3-point range.
What it means: Rivers had hoped for a 7-0 road trip -- with six of the games against struggling East teams -- but after dropping the first game, Rivers has to hope a win over the Memphis Grizzlies will propel the Clippers to a 6-1 trip. Either way, the Clippers are now 12-7 and losers of two in a row against Eastern Conference teams.
Hits: Blake Griffin had 24 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, while Chris Paul had 19 points, 11 assists and 3 steals. Those two are usually going to be hits, but for the Clippers to be successful, particularly on the road, they’re going to need the other starters to show up. For the most part on Wednesday, they did not.
Misses: Jared Dudley is an important glue guy on the Clippers, and there will be nights when he will be lights-out from outside, but Wednesday was not one of those nights. Dudley had nine points on 4-for-10 shooting and was 1-for-5 from downtown.
Stat of the game: The Clippers not only allowed the Hawks to score 107 points, but also allowed Atlanta to hit 51.2 percent of their shots from the field and 52.2 percent from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Clippers shot just 21.1 percent from 3-point range, hitting just 4-of-19 from outside.
Up next: The Clippers play the Grizzlies, the team they’ve played in the first round of the last two playoffs. The Grizzlies won their first meeting of the season in L.A., 106-102, as Zach Randolph had 26 points and 15 rebounds and Marc Gasol had 23 points and nine rebounds. Even with Gasol shelved with an injury, the tandem of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will have to play better defensively if they expect the result to be different this time around.
But don’t look for the NBA to ever change the current playoff format to accommodate for this disparity. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who is on the NBA’s competition committee, said he doesn’t think a one-season discrepancy would force the league to consider taking the 16 teams with the best records instead of the top eight teams from the East and West.
"No. How many times has this happened?" Rivers said Wednesday. "We should never overdo it. I do believe [the best] 16 teams is great, but I don’t think logistically that would work. It would be very hard to do, and, the thing is, you don’t play the same teams. If the East is better, they don’t play the West as many times. [Schedule balance is] not fair, so you have to keep the conferences."
Rivers, who coached in the East for 14 seasons with the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, believes the East will eventually produce more than two teams with winning records this season.
"In the Eastern Conference, there are better teams than their record," Rivers said. "It’s just so early, and everyone is piling on them now, especially Brooklyn and New York because people want them right now. When someone sees a good team struggling, it’s all all-out attack in our league. It’s not a very nice league in that way."
Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was on the San Antonio Spurs' coaching staff for 18 seasons before coming to the East this season. When asked if he would be in favor of a format in which the 16 best records in the league made it to the playoffs, he smiled.
"Not now that I’m in the East," he said.
The Hawks entered Wednesday at 9-10, which was the fifth-best record in the conference. Budenholzer, however, agreed with Rivers that the disparity usually evens out over time.
"I think those things always change, and it’s year to year," he said. "I think the teams in the East, I think there may have been a slow start and the records may be deceiving. I think there are a lot of good teams over here. It’s been set up this way for a long time, and I don’t see anything ever changing. There will be a swing and there will be 10 good teams in the East and two good teams in the West at some point, I’m sure."
Doc Rivers has been experimenting with practice and shootaround times -- and sometimes whether to have them at all -- as he tries to figure out what patterns best fit his team and his players this season.
For example, Rivers regretted having the team shootaround in Orlando during the Clippers’ last road trip back East. The Clippers had played Houston at home on Monday night, had flown from Los Angeles to Orlando on Tuesday and had an early-morning shootaround before the game Wednesday. The Clippers came out sluggish and lost to the Magic 98-90, and lost the next night to the Miami Heat 102-97. After the trip, Rivers was still kicking himself for making the players shoot around on short rest.
“I learned a lot on the trip as far as travel,” Rivers said. “I thought I made some mistakes in terms of changing our schedule and I thought we started off bad. The rest factor was big. We shouldn’t have had a shootaround in Orlando. I’m still learning the east-to-west and west-to-east travel. The shootaround was awful and it should have been; it was 7:30 in the morning on their body clocks so I learned a little bit.”
Three years ago Rivers met with sleep medicine specialist Dr. Charles A. Czeisler of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He canceled morning shootarounds on game days and pushed the start time of practices to noon.
It’s a philosophy he has brought over to the Clippers. Not only have players taken sleep studies, but they have also been tested to see what kinds of foods give them the most energy and what kinds of foods they should stay away from. Their pre- and postgame meals are now catered to reflect those results.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jared Dudley said. “The attention to detail is awesome.”
That’s why Rivers decided to cancel Monday’s practice and fly through three time zones a day early rather than fly out Tuesday for Wednesday’s game.
It’s the Clippers’ first long road trip of the season, and the Clippers go into it with a lot of questions about the team and their identity. They’ll have to make do without J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes, but the seven games in two weeks should tell them a lot about what kind of team they have by the time they come home.
“We can learn a lot about ourselves and how we approach each game,” Chris Paul said. “Not thinking about the next one, always about the first one. I always say you can’t win them all without winning the first one.”
“It’s a big trip but if we win them all, we can’t quit playing and if we lose them all we can’t quit playing,” Rivers said. “We have a long season.”
It becomes so much a part of their lexicon that beat reporters quietly look at one another and smile when they are uttered again and again.
It's a perfectly reasonable explanation and probably accurate, but they don't really explain why the Clippers lost to the Indiana Pacers 105-100 on Sunday. On two occasions, the Clippers came back from 11-point and 14-point deficits to tie the score or take the lead, only to let Indiana take back control of the game.
"I thought in the second half we joined the game, and then it was a game," Rivers said. "I thought Indiana attacked us early and we didn't attack back, and then in the second half it was a good basketball game. I take out of that that we can play with anybody, but I'm not taking a moral victory. We lost the game."
Being able to play with anybody and being able to beat anybody are two different things, and right now the Clippers aren't at the point where they can beat anybody. After losing to the Miami Heat and Pacers and splitting two games with the Oklahoma City Thunder so far this season, the Clippers have proved they can play with the elite teams in the NBA, but beating them on a consistent basis might be another story.
So why do the Clippers show up to these games late or not play with a purpose, as Rivers has suggested?
"We're human," Rivers said. "Some games you come in to win. It's not like our guys came in and were like, 'Let's not win today.' [Indiana] came in with a purpose. This was their first game on the West Coast road trip, and you could see their seriousness and the beginning of the game was locked in and we were not. We tried to get into it."
There's no shame in losing to a 16-1 team, but when you're playing against the best team in the NBA at home and your excuse postgame is that you weren't locked in and you tried to get into it, that's not acceptable.
LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeles Clippers arrived at Staples Center Sunday morning they got some good news and bad news.
The good news was that Chris Paul, who had missed the past game and a half with a strained right hamstring, would be back in the starting lineup. The bad news was his teammate in the backcourt, J.J. Redick, would be sidelined for 6-8 weeks with a fracture in the small bone of his right hand and a tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
The news didn’t get any better as the day progressed and the Clippers lost 105-100 to the Indiana Pacers.
It was the Clippers’ second loss at home and was another loss to a championship-contending team after the Clippers previously lost to the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder on the road.
The Clippers understand the road to being a championship team will take time, but losses to other contenders, not to mention the loss of players, certainly doesn’t help.
How it happened: The Clippers were in this game briefly in stretches after taking a one-point lead late in the second quarter and tying the game up late in the fourth quarter. For the most part, Indiana controlled the game, taking an 11-point lead early and a 14-point lead late.
What it means: The loss drops the Clippers to 13-5 and a tie with the Houston Rockets for the fourth and fifth seeds in the West. The Clippers still have a three-game lead in the Pacific Division but they were certainly hoping to win their last home game in nearly two weeks before going on the road for their next seven games.
Hits: The usual suspects had good games. Chris Paul had 17 points and 10 assists, Blake Griffin had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Jamal Crawford had 20 points off the bench while playing extended minutes with Redick out.
Misses: Willie Green is being put in a tough position having to replace Redick, but he’s got to give the Clippers more while he’s on the floor. On Sunday he only had two points on 1-of-5 shooting and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. That’s not going to cut it if he’s going to be in the starting lineup for the next two months.
Stat of the game: The Clippers have been preaching the importance of defense since the start of training camp and have been playing better of late, but they’ll need to really be better on defense if they’re going to win games without Redick and Matt Barnes. They’re not going to win many games giving up over 100 points as they did again on Sunday.
Up next: The Clippers embark on a seven-game, 13-day trip which begins in Atlanta on Wednesday and continues with games at Memphis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn and Washington. Wednesday’s game at Atlanta will be the Clippers’ first game against the Hawks this season. Atlanta is just 9-9 so far this year but in the down East, that’s good enough for third in the conference behind Indiana and Miami.
When Friday's game was over, Doc Rivers gave DeAndre Jordan a hug.
It was just a November game at Sacramento, but it seemed like much more for Jordan and for Rivers, who has been pushing Jordan to think of himself as part of the Los Angeles Clippers' "Big Three" since the offseason.
This, of course, was the same offseason where it looked as if Jordan would no longer be with the Clippers after he was involved in a deal for Kevin Garnett that was separate from the deal that brought Rivers to Los Angeles from the Boston Celtics, but connected enough that the league blocked it from happening.
It was the second time a blocked trade by David Stern has worked in the Clippers' favor.
While the 37-year-old Garnett looks like a player who should have retired after last season, the 25-year-old Jordan is finally coming into his own, and that was never more evident than during the Clippers' 104-98 overtime win over the Sacramento Kings.
Jordan had 10 points, 15 rebounds and 9 blocked shots, finishing one block shy of a triple-double and the franchise record for rejections.
"D.J. had a Bill Russell night," Rivers told reporters after the game. "He really did, with nine blocks and the rebounds. It's amazing what a defender can do for your team who just buys into it, and he's bought in 100 percent. Without him, we had no chance tonight. He was just phenomenal."
How it happened: After the Kings took a 98-94 lead with 3 minutes, 55 seconds left in overtime, the Clippers went on a 10-0 run and held Sacramento scoreless the rest of the way. Jamal Crawford scored the last four points of the game and assisted on Blake Griffin's two baskets in overtime.
What it means: With Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes sidelined, the Clippers came back from being down in overtime to claim a big road win. The Clippers are now 12-5 with a 2 1/2-game lead atop the division and 2 1/2 games out of the top seed in the Western Conference.
Hits: Crawford picked up the scoring and playmaking load with all the injuries in the Clippers' backcourt and had 31 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds. He also came up big in overtime when the Clippers needed him most.
Griffin had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and, as mentioned, Jordan's contributions were huge.
Misses: Jared Dudley struggled offensively, finishing with five points on 2-of-5 shooting on a night when the Clippers could have used his offense with all the injuries. The bench, outside of Crawford, was also ineffective, with four players combining for nine points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Stat of the game: Crawford was one assist shy of finishing with a career-best 12, while Jordan was one blocked shot away from a triple-double and a franchise-best 10 blocked shots. It was the best game both have had this season and two of the best they've ever had in Los Angeles.
Up next: The Clippers will play another matinee game at Staples Center on Sunday, this time against the Indiana Pacers, who have the best record in the NBA at 15-1. It's the first time these two teams are meeting this season. The teams split their two meetings last season, with the road team winning each game.
As good as the Pacers have been this season, Rivers recently said they're not elite yet.
"There's one elite team in the NBA right now and that's Miami. That's it," Rivers said. "Everybody else is trying to get there. Indiana is playing great, but Miami is the only elite team in the NBA. They're the team that has been to the Finals the past three years, they have two championships, we're all just trying to get there."
LOS ANGELES -- It was a sight the Los Angeles Clippers did not want to see as the final seconds ticked off the clock in their 93-80 win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Chris Paul was sitting on the floor at the end of the Clippers' bench with his strained right hamstring heavily taped after sitting out for the most of the second half after sustaining the injury in the third quarter.
Luckily for the Clippers, Thanksgiving for the team came one day early when they were told the strain wasn't serious and Paul could have returned to the game if needed.
"I think he's doing fine," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "There was no chance he was coming back in. Of course he told me twice already that he'll be ready for Friday, that doesn't mean it's true. That's just what he said."
How it happened: The Clippers controlled the game for much of the second half after playing around with the Knicks in the first half. They probably could have put the game away early when they took a 40-29 lead in the second quarter, but then they allowed the Knicks to go on a 14-0 to take the lead before reclaiming the advantage again before halftime and leading the rest of the way.
What it means: The Clippers improved their record to 11-5, the best in the Pacific Division by two games and two games off the best record in the conference.
Hits: Blake Griffin had another double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebound, and DeAndre Jordan had nine points and 13 rebounds. J.J. Redick and Paul also added 15 points apiece.
Misses: After having his best game of the season Sunday against Chicago, Jared Dudley struggled on Wednesday against the Knicks. He was 2-for-8 from the field and missed his first five 3-point attempts and finished with only five points and two rebounds.
Stat of the game: For the second straight game, the Clippers held their opponent to 82 points or fewer, showing they are improving defensively. "It's coming," Rivers said. "We're starting to get it."
Up next: The Clippers will fly up north after Thanksgiving to play the Kings in Sacramento, the third meeting between the teams this season. The Clippers won the first two meetings, but their last game in Los Angeles ended up being closer than expected. After taking a 20-point first half lead, the Clippes had to come back from five points down to beat the Kings, 103-102, with Paul hitting the go-ahead free-throw with 2.5 seconds left.