BEST OF 2012-13: MATT BARNES PLAYS
It was undeniable that Matt Barnes was one of the biggest catalysts for the Clippers’ success in 2012-13. He was sixth on the team in player efficiency rating, finished with a career-high 10.3 points per game, shot 57.4 percent from 2-point range, was a hard-nosed defender on the wing and proved well-equipped for the fast-paced second unit. It was the little things and the big ones that Barnes contributed. Rather than pull together a top five of something singular such as his best dunks or steals or physical plays at the basket, it was necessary to illustrate Barnes’ all-around impact through his highlights.
Here are five of the best plays from Barnes with a brief explanation:
5. April 17, 2013 at Sacramento Kings: The Mid-Air Swap
Barnes, who was playing in front of dozens of fans in his hometown of Sacramento, helped the Clippers pull out a must-win game in the regular season finale, scoring 12 points including this second quarter layup. It was indicative of how important Barnes was to the transition game that the Clippers thrived in. He took 2.8 shots per game at the rim last season and shot a career-best 69 percent in those situations, many of which came running out on steals and long rebounds. He starts and finishes this play, grabbing the rebound off a missed 3-pointer by Isaiah Thomas, flipping the ball ahead to Eric Bledsoe and sprinting down the left sideline. Bledsoe finds Barnes a few steps later with a bounce pass that Barnes finishes off by switching hands in mid-air for a layup.
4. December 25, 2012 vs. Denver Nuggets: Five Seconds or Less
Another thing that made Barnes deadly in transition last season was that he makes quick decisions. On this play he shows off his help defense, collapsing on JaVale McGee to reject a running jump hook attempt. As soon as the block is made his first instinct is to get up the court. Chris Paul finds him around mid-court and Barnes immediately turns and fires a lob to Blake Griffin who beat Kosta Koufos to the restricted area. Paul gained possession at 2:58 and five seconds later Griffin was hanging off the rim on the other end.
3. January 9, 2013 vs. Dallas Mavericks: For the Lead
The 2012-13 season was not Barnes’ best as a 3-point shooter, but it was on par with his previous two high-octane performances with the run-and-gun Golden State Warriors and Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns. Arguably, Barnes made more important 3-pointers last season than at any other point in his career. The game against Dallas, when the Clippers owned the league’s best record, is a perfect example. With the Mavericks giving the Clippers trouble through most of three quarters at Staples Center, Barnes connected on a 3-pointer from straightaway over a late contest by Jae Crowder. It was his fifth shot from beyond the arc of the game and gave the Clippers a lead they would not relinquish.
2. January 4, 2013 vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Last Second Swat
The Clippers swept the Lakers, one of Barnes’ former teams, winning four games by an average of 13.25 points. They were leading by double digits in the fourth quarter each time, but the most dramatic meeting between the intra-city rivals came on Jan. 4. Kobe Bryant helped the Lakers erase an 18-point second-half deficit, but one shot he was denied came at the conclusion of the first quarter with Barnes on him. Barnes picks up Bryant the length of the floor, shuffling his feet to stay in front of him. As time ticks away, Barnes shades Bryant’s left shoulder, attempting to force him into help defense from Ronny Turiaf and Paul’s active hands to Bryant’s right. Bryant pulls up for a jumper with two seconds to go and Barnes swats it away to close out the quarter and preserve a seven-point Clippers lead.
1. April 10, 2013 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: For Russia with Love
While many of Barnes’ best and biggest plays weren’t necessarily traditional highlights, this one against the Timberwolves in the final week of the season certainly was. Paul pokes the ball away from Derrick Williams to create a 2-on-1 fast break with Barnes to his left and Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko trying to recover on defense. Kirilenko cuts off Paul’s path but Barnes fills the lane and Paul finds him with a pass around Kirilenko’s back. As the veteran Timberwolves forward turns, Barnes goes up for a right-handed tomahawk slam.
BONUS: From help defense to his footwork fronting the post, check out highlights of some of Barnes’ best defensive plays from 2012-13.