BENCH COULD TILT SERIES WITH THUNDER
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Clippers and Thunder are evenly matched on paper.
They are two of top three teams in the league record-wise. They have top five defenses in terms of opponent’s field goal percentage. They are elite offensively. They each have arguably two of the top 10 players in the NBA.
Not much separates them.
However, the Clippers, who head into Wednesday’s Game 2 at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals, believe their reserve unit of Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Glen Davis, Jared Dudley and Hedo Turkoglu could swing the series.
“Our bench is very unique bench in that most of those guys could go to any other team and start,” Chris Paul said. “Most of practices when we had everybody healthy were very competitive and we can lean on them.”
The problem for the bench this season is that it has not been fully intact. Crawford missed more than a month. Collison was starting nearly half of the season either in Paul’s stead or alongside him. Granger, Davis and Turkoglu joined the team in the latter half of the year and Dudley started until Jan. 20.
But entering the postseason they were all available. And even with Turkoglu sidelined with a hairline fracture in the transverse process of his lower back, the other key components are there.
“Jamal coming off the bench, Darren Collison, those guys are huge for us,” said Blake Griffin, who finished third in the league’s MVP balloting. “They can up the tempo and not just keep it where it is. They up the tempo and change the game for us. We need our bench to really make an impact.”
And they made an impact in Game 1. The reserves, led by Crawford’s 17 points, helped extend an early lead for the Clippers. They turned a 12-point game into 19 and then in the second half helped the Clippers earn a lead as large as 29. Granger had five points and five rebounds. Davis had six points and did not miss a shot. Crawford was 6-for-11 in 18 minutes.
“I think that’s our job,” Crawford said when asked about extending leads. “Obviously, guys are a little tired, a little banged up, and whenever the playoffs are going, our starters are pretty much going to cancel each other out for the most part. So, I think the bench comes in and stretches out the lead, and just give [the starters] some rest, get them back in rhythm; and they were able to take it from there.”
STARTING FROM SCRATCH IN GAME 2
Even after winning Game 1 by 17 points Clippers head coach Doc Rivers says they cannot rest on having a one-game advantage in the series with three games still ahead at Staples Center.
“I think you should approach it the same way,” Rivers said at shootaround Wednesday. “I think the last two days we’ve gotten that point across that we have to play better to win this game.”