POSTGAME REPORT: CLIPPERS 100 VS BOBCATS 94
CHARLOTTE–Blake Griffin called it a “grind it out” win and Matt Barnes referred to it as “an ugly game.” But no matter what you call it, the Clippers, playing for the fourth time in five days and less than 24 hours after a game in Chicago, found a way to escape Time Warner Cable Arena Wednesday with a 100-94 victory.
It was the eighth win in a row for the Clippers (16-6), matching the 1991-92 squad for the second longest streak in franchise history. The win also matched the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves for the best 22-game start in team history.
“What makes this a good win for us?” said Chris Paul, who grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Probably, last time we were on a road trip we won the first one and lost the last three and this was a back-to-back. They were rested. This is one of those games that will fool you.
“I think we stayed focused and did what we had to do.”
The Clippers last road trip started with a five-point win in San Antonio, but concluded with the team returning to Los Angeles with three somewhat disheartening losses. Against the Bobcats (7-14), the Clippers were determined to avoid the same fate.
“It is just tiring coming in off a pretty tough back-to-back,” Griffin said. “Charlotte plays hard. They’re scrappy. They’re definitely a different team than last year. They really fight. It’s not a cakewalk thing by any means. It was kind of one of those grind it out games where you really have to stick in there.
“You have to win games like this to be a good team,” Griffin continued. “You have to win games like this to gain that confidence and get that experience.”
And while the Bobcats stayed within single-digits for most of the night, they led only once, 12-11, on a layup by Bismack Biyombo midway through the first quarter.
Eric Bledsoe. Three players (Paul, Barnes and Griffin) scored more points than the Clippers’ reserve point guard, but his 13 points and eight rebounds were vital in keeping Charlotte at bay. He capped his 11-point third quarter by flipping in a layup off a miss from Jamal Crawford, appeared to block a shot with his head in the second half, and converted his only 3-pointer from straightaway off a feed by Griffin.
With 3:57 left, Paul knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Clippers a 10-point lead, but consecutive dunks by Byron Mullens and Biyombo cut the lead to six. Biyombo was fouled on the dunk by Barnes, but missed the free throw. Paul pounced into the lane in front of Biyombo and grabbed the carom. Twenty-one seconds later, Crawford found Barnes for a 3-pointer that seemed to take the air out of any Charlotte comeback attempt.
Paul, who along with Griffin and Barnes, had 19 points, also dished out 10 assists and had five rebounds. It was Paul’s ninth double-double of the season and followed back-to-back games with just four assists, a number he achieved in the first quarter Wednesday.
Griffin. He had 19 points on 9-of-17 shooting with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. His most visually appealing play came on an alley-oop in the halfcourt from Paul. Griffin flashed his right hand in the air with Mullens behind him. In an instant, Paul recognized it as well as the clear airspace between Mullens and the basket. With impeccable timing, Griffin spun off Mullens and Paul lofted the ball towards the rim. Griffin finished the play as would be expected with the catch and dunk before Biyombo could rotate over.
Mullens. The fourth-year big man is the most experienced player in the Bobcats lineup and showed a refined perimeter game on Wednesday. He scored 19 points with eight rebounds and connected on two 3-pointers.
Assists. THe Clippers had 26 assists on 37 field goals. A night ago, they had just 19 assists on 37 makes.
Hot: Barnes. It was a carryover from the night before against Chicago. Barnes went 8-of-13 from the floor, making three of his six 3-pointers for 19 points. In the last two games, the wiry reserve forward is 12-for-20 (5-for-10 from three).
“Matt Barnes made shot after shot even every time they tried to make a run,” Paul said. “He can shoot it and we need him to shoot it with that confidence and that’s what he did tonight.”
Not: Ben Gordon and Jamal Crawford. They are among the top bench players in the league, with Crawford the leading candidate for a Sixth Man of the Year award. Gordon went 3-for-11 and had eight points, while Crawford was 2-for-12 with nine points, snapping his 28-game streak of double-digit scoring games.
The difference between the two, though, was that Crawford found a way to contribute in other areas. He dished out a season-high eight assists, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots, a 3-pointer by Gordon from the wing and a runner by Gerald Henderson.
Of Crawford’s eight assists, half of them were to Barnes. Afterwards, Barnes talked about his connection with his fellow bench mate.
“He’s such a good one-on-one player that everyone ball watches,” Barnes said. “Me and him have a connection that once I see him go into his move, if I see two or three guys looking at him, I cut and he’s such a great passer as well, he’s done a good job of finding me.”
Del Negro: “We got a lot of contributions. Matt Barnes hit a couple of big shots for us. I thought [Eric Bledsoe] played well for us again. Blake and Chris, Lamar: nine rebounds, [Bledsoe]: eight rebounds. Just an overall team effort.”
Griffin: “It hasn’t been just one or two guys; it’s been three or four. It’s been our entire bench. It’s been a lot of things.”
Kemba Walker: “It’s fun. He’s one of the better point guards, the better players, in this league so whenever I get a chance to play against him or other great players I want to take it.”
Notes: Chauncey Billups (peroneal tendinitis in his left foot) sat out for the fifth game in a row. Tyrus Thomas (calf) did not play for the Bobcats… Walker scored 17 points with six assists for the Bobcats… The Clippers held Charlotte to 42.7% shooting. It is the fifth time in seven games this month they have held an opponent below 43.0%... Eight players on the Clippers had at least eight rebounds, led by Lamar Odom’s nine off the bench… Charlotte and L.A. have two of the league’s best benches, but the Clippers outscored the Bobcats, 46-37... Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was in attendance.