After playing Memphis in a classic, seven-game series last season and winning only their third playoff series in franchise history -- and first Game 7, on the road no less -- the Clippers were more than familiar with their opponent. The physicality and bitterness from their playoff series five months ago seemingly bled over into the season opener and the Clippers’ 101-92 win over the Grizzlies.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Griffin and Randolph get chippy
There was already some bad blood between Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph after last season’s physical playoff series, during which Griffin and Randolph got into more than a few altercations. Their feud continued into Wednesday’s season opener, when Griffin and Randolph had to be separated after the two got tangled following a play late in the fourth quarter. On the next play, Randolph took down Griffin following a basket. Cooler heads seemed to prevail following the back-to-back incidents as the two shared a smile when they returned to the court. But there was nearly another blowup after Griffin blocked a Randolph dunk attempt late in the game and the two again had to be separated. The Clippers and Grizzlies don’t play again until Jan. 14 in Memphis, but there is no question that Griffin and Randolph are now the headliners to what has become a pretty solid rivalry in the NBA.
Crawford makes his case
Jamal Crawford wasn’t the most popular preseason choice for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, but he told anyone who would listen that he was the smart pick. He certainly made anyone (present company included) that picked him to win the award look especially smart Wednesday night. He finished with a team-high 29 points in 30 minutes off the bench and scored 15 of those points in the first half, helping the Clippers take a 12-point lead in the first half. The second-team backcourt of Crawford and Eric Bledsoe will be a handful for opposing benches this season, as Bledsoe picks up the tempo and runs the offense at a breakneck speed and dishes off to Crawford on the wing for wide-open shots. Crawford’s signature play of the game came midway through the fourth quarter, when he crossed over Rudy Gay so badly Gay fell to his feet as Crawford finished the basket.
It’s almost impossible to get a perfect night from DeAndre Jordan. On most nights you’ll have to take the good with the bad and decide if the good is, well, good enough to put up with the bad. It wasn’t always the case on Wednesday night, as the Clippers had to rely on Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf more than they probably had planned. While Jordan was a force on the offensive side, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, he committed nine turnovers and had only seven rebounds. While Jordan worked on his post game and his shot over the summer, he clearly still needs to work on his handles. Jordan did end the game strong, putting the finishing touches on the Clippers win with a lob dunk from Chris Paul in the final minute that brought the sold-out crowd to its feet.