POSTGAME REPORT: CLIPPERS 88, PISTONS 76
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – It was an exclamation point to not only the game, but perhaps the entire four-game, eight-day road trip.
In the final 30 seconds of Monday night’s 88-76 victory over the Detroit Pistons, Blake Griffin caught a pass off the backboard from Matt Barnes and threw it down with his eyes nearly in line with the rim.
The play set the Detroit crowd into a frenzy, got every player on the bench out of their seat, and served as the perfect punctuation to the Clippers’ scrappy victory over the 7-20 Pistons. It was the tenth win in a row for the Clippers (18-6), the second longest streak in franchise history. It also marked the first time in franchise history that the Clippers have swept a road trip of four games or longer.
“It’s not going to be pretty every night,” Chris Paul said. “But you’ve just got to find ways to win. We came in here tonight and said, ‘Create your own energy.’ This is another one of those trap games. We’ve been on the road for what feels like forever, against a team without a winning record, we could have let our guard down, but we won.”
As for Griffin’s dunk to close the game out, Barnes said it was all about being alone on the break.
“I was just hoping he saw me,” Barnes said. “Once he threw it to me I told him to keep coming because no one was down there with me. He can jump 10 times higher than I can, so I figured the crowd wanted to see him dunk instead of me lay it up.”
Griffin’s dunk, and another one earlier in the fourth quarter where he followed up a blocked layup by Kyle Singler on one end with a double-pump alley-oop slam off a pass from Chris Paul on the other, may stand above all else, but the game turned several minutes earlier. The Clippers ramped up their defensive intensity, stifling the Pistons to just five points over the final 4:45.
“We had to turn up our defense,” Barnes said. “We knew that if you give a team at home confidence it can come back and bite you, so we knew we had to turn our defense up the last 5:00 and get key stops, get key rebounds and get out in transition and score.”
With the Pistons in possession and the Clippers clinging to a five-point lead, Jamal Crawford swiped a ball in the passing lane and threw it over the top for a Barnes dunk that took about three seconds from start to finish. On the next trip down the floor, Lamar Odom found Barnes cutting to the rim for a layup. The two plays came immediately following a timeout by Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank and gave L.A. a 73-64 lead.
“Those [baskets] were big just because it changed the complexion,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “They (the Pistons) had some opportunities there. They missed a few shots and we were able to convert and sometimes that’s all it takes.”
Seemingly in every one of the Clippers' 10 consecutive wins, a different player has stepped up when the Clippers needed it. For Del Negro, that’s what he’s been most impressed by over the last couple of weeks.
“Finding different ways to win and learning as unit how to win when we don’t have our best stuff, getting after it more defensively, and getting some cohesion with the first and second group, have been good,” Del Negro said when asked to reflect on winning streak.
On Monday it was Odom, who was forced into extended minutes after Griffin picked up his fourth foul with 6:09 left in the third quarter. He had a team-high 11 rebounds, two assists, a pair of layups knifing to the basket, and two blocked shots.
However, Odom’s biggest three plays arguably all came in the fourth quarter, with Griffin alongside him. First, he pinned a layup attempt by Greg Monroe against the backboard. Then, he secured an offensive rebound with 2:20 to go that led to two free throws from Paul 21 seconds later. And finally, as Griffin drove from right to left across the lane he dished it to Odom, who cut along the baseline, for a layup despite contact from Jason Maxiell.
Paul did not have gaudy numbers, but he commanded the offense and made nearly every necessary play. Early in the game when the Clippers were shooting well below 40%, Paul ramped up his scoring, including connecting on his first four field goals. In the second half, it was more about distributing the basketball and defending Pistons point guard Brandon Knight. Paul finished with 14 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Griffin. Here are the final 47.5 seconds of plays in the box score for the Clippers: Griffin 1-for-2 from the free throw line; Griffin defensive rebound; Griffin fast-break alley-oop dunk (Barnes); steal by Griffin; Griffin fast-break dunk (Paul). The All-Star forward, who was limited to 29 minutes by foul trouble, dominated the last segment of the fourth quarter, finishing with 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and the aforementioned rejection of Singler.
Crawford. After consecutive games where he failed to reach double-figures, Crawford saw a few jumpers fall Monday. He went 7-for-17 for 15 points and added three rebounds, two assists and two of the Clippers’ nine steals.
Monroe. For a short time, it looked like the Pistons big man was headed for his second triple-double of the season. He didn’t get it, but still had a solid all-around night winding up with 11 points, seven rebounds and a team-high six assists.
Hot: Paul. After making nine of his last 23 shots entering the game, Paul started hot, connecting on his first four and finishing 6-for-12 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free throw line.
Not: Knight. With Rodney Stuckey sidelined with back spasms, more of the scoring burden was forced upon the second-year guard from Kentucky. Knight went just 5-for-16 from the field (3-for-10 from distance) and committed five of Detroit’s 17 turnovers.
Crawford: “Everybody’s bringing something different to the table. We’re finding different ways to win games. Ten in a row? It doesn’t’ really feel like 10 in a row. It feels like there’s room for growth. We’ll continue to take it one game at a time and keep it going.”
Barnes: “We just have to keep getting better. We know if we control the defensive end then we are a hard team to stop on the offensive end. Tonight was not pretty but this team finds ways to win games and that is what we did tonight.”
Tayshaun Prince: “We played a good first half. In the beginning of the third, once we turned it over a couple times and let them get out, it was to their advantage. You have to continue to take care of that basketball and when they shoot high-percentage shots we know of what type of team they can be and what they will do. We played good in spurts, and that’s been our trend.”
Notes: Caron Butler was 6-for-9 from the free throw line. It was the first time since Dec. 30, 2010 when he was a member of the Mavericks that he attempted nine or more free throws in a game. He finished with 11 points on the night… The Clippers were 5-of-22 from 3-point range (22.7%)… They committed just 12 turnovers. It is the eighth time in the last 10 games they have had 12 miscues or fewer...
WILLIE GREEN’S HOMECOMING
A game after Butler played 30 miles away from his hometown against the Bucks, Detroit native Willie Green started and played 17:06 in front of more than 30 friends and family members at the Palace.
“It’s always fun to play in front of your hometown fans and also your friends and family,” Green said. “So, it makes it even sweeter to get this win.”
Green finished with five points (2-of-6 shooting), two rebounds, one assist, a steal and a blocked shot. The block came from a standstill against Maxiell, who is 4 inches taller than Green. After the Pistons forward grabbed an offensive rebound, Green immediately jumped and swatted the ball out of bounds.