JORDAN IMPACTING GAMES ON THE GLASS
BOSTON – A year ago when DeAndre Jordan grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds, it seemed like everything had to align for it to happen.
Blake Griffin sat out with a hamstring injury. The Clippers’ opponent, the Washington Wizards, was undersized on the front line. And Jordan, who averaged just 24.5 minutes per game, was slated to play more than he would all season.
Flash ahead to Monday night in Philadelphia. Jordan came up one rebound shy of his career high.
It was no longer a surprise, but an expectation. He no longer has big rebounding games when Griffin is not available, but steals them from his buddy when they’re on the court together.
“I tease him about that all the time,” Griffin said, referring to plays similar to one in Philadelphia where Jordan and Griffin both had their hands on the ball and Jordan pulled it away.
“But in all seriousness, ‘Go get the ball.’ And that’s what he does. He comes up with big rebounds when we need him.”
None was bigger Monday night than Jordan’s 17th rebound. With the Clippers teetering on the edge of a collapse, the Sixers had possession and a chance to draw within five or six points of the lead. Evan Turner went up for a contested runner on the right baseline that caromed off the rim in the opposite direction. It appeared Thaddeus Young had position after Griffin, his man, had helped off of him to contest Turner. Jordan out jumped Young, snared the ball with his right arm like he jammed a skewer in a vegetable, and as he landed, almost on top of Young, he swung his prize a couple of times to clear space.
It was easy to forget that Jordan entered the game with a strained arch in his right foot; that there were questions whether or not he would even play. By the time Tony Wroten flung a 48-foot meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer of the Clippers’ 94-83 win it was Jordan who carried the mantle for the Clippers.
Chris Paul had 25 points and 13 assists. Griffin scored 26, more than anyone else on the court. But make no mistake. It was Jordan and the defense that won the sort of discombobulated game Monday.
It’s who Jordan has been all year.
“It’s just the opportunity that’s all,” Jordan said. “I’m crashing the glass offensively it seems like every time or at least trying to get a hand on it or a tip out for our team. But rebounding was an issue for us last year and I feel like that was one of our main focus areas this year.”
Jamal Crawford, who is in his second season with the Clippers has noticed a difference in Jordan.
“He’s been a different player from day one. For him, we need him to be our defensive anchor. He’s so important to what we do.”
He has been important to the Clippers’ defense, which ranks in the top four in defensive efficiency and opponent’s field goal percentage over the last 11 games. And he has been dominant on the boards. He’s second in the league with 13.3 rebounds per game.
Jordan has had 16 or more rebounds in six games this season. In five previous seasons, he had just seven such games.
“I didn’t watch last season a lot,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “I did in the summer, but I don’t go back there. I’m worried about D.J. now. The D.J. now has been wonderful.
“He’s one of the most dominant bigs in the league defensively. And this year that’s his focus, that’s what he wants to be. Last year, his focus became offense and that shouldn’t have been his focus. [Former head coach] Vinny [Del Negro] and them did the right thing. They told him to work on your offense. I’m telling him to work on his offense, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to feature him. It’s just in case the ball ends up in his hands you want him to be able to do something with it. Everybody can have an impact on a game and DeAndre’s is clearly defense. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit maturity-wise. He’s bought into it. It’s helped our team.”