Jordan Clutch As Clippers’ Big Men Overwhelm Knicks Late
NEW YORK – Jamal Crawford referred to DeAndre Jordan as the “beacon of light” after Wednesday’s win, which snapped a three-game skid.
When Jordan’s up, the Clippers are up. When Jordan’s rolling, both figuratively and literally, the Clippers are rolling.
Wednesday against the Knicks, Jordan rolled to the rim, and the Clippers found him and followed suit. Jordan finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – both of which came late as the Clippers mounted their comeback – helping the Clippers overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to roll past New York, 119-115.
“He was unbelievable,” Crawford said. “He was huge. DJ’s so good, nobody wants to be embarrassed. Most of the time we run pick-and-roll, and then the rolling happens, the big’s like, ‘We’re not giving up dunks,’ and that opens up things for our guards. You’ll meet teams that are like, ‘OK, we can live with the guards.’”
The Knicks didn’t take approach. And Jordan took advantage.
As Blake Griffin rolled to a season-high 32 points, Jordan rolled to the rim. The Knicks tried to cut off Austin Rivers and J.J. Redick, who combined for 21 points, so the Clippers went inside, where Jordan took more than twice as many shots as he had in any game since Jan. 21, finishing 11-for-13 from the field.
“It’s how it happens,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “When he sets more picks and rolls like that, he’s more involved. I thought Austin in the first half was great getting everyone involved. I thought he got tentative in the second half, which hurt us and him. DJ just played at a high level. The foul trouble hurt him again tonight, but I just thought he played with better energy.”
That Jan. 21 game, Jordan went 6-for-10 with 14 points and 13 rebounds, part of a January in which he averaged 14.6 points and 15.8 rebounds. A game later, he took just one shot in a win in Atlanta, a result at least partly attributed to the Hawks crowding the paint and baiting the Clippers’ backcourt into shots.
“So, I had 27 (points) and we won,” Austin Rivers remembered from that Atlanta victory. “Tonight, I had seven points, but they were stepping up taking my floater away, so the pass is going to be there. As a point guard, you need to make the read.”
That’s still a process for Austin and for the Clippers, who continue to deal with the loss of Chris Paul, one of the best lobbers in the game and a player Jordan relied on to find his looks inside. Admittedly, Austin said, he’s still figuring out how to make the reads the right way to find a center capable of finishing the way Jordan does.
“It’s all new for me, just continue to learn and just read the defense like that,” he said.
Wednesday, Austin did so more often than not, and a career-high 10 assists followed, though he still thought he got too tentative late.
But late is when Jordan thrived, which is what the Clippers needed as they crawled their way back from behind. Jordan scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, with the first four coming on free throws.
As he got going on offense, the energy translated to the other side of the floor, as well. Jordan blocked Kyle O’Quinn with four minutes left, forcing a 24-second violation. Less than a minute later, Jamal Crawford found Jordan for a driving layup.
Then, with the Clippers trying to finish off the comeback, Jordan secured a defensive rebound that led to a go-ahead Crawford 3-pointer. The next 20 seconds included a Jordan block on Derrick Rose and another layup from Jordan off a J.J. Redick find.
“I just was rolling a little bit harder, but I think we were just taking what they gave us,” Jordan said with a grin.
After seven straight games taking six or fewer field goal attempts, it’s clear Jordan enjoyed the added opportunities, and Wednesday was an example of what can happen when he gets some room and the Clippers find him.
In the process, they also found a much-needed win, snapping a three-game skid as the East Coast portion of a five-game trip continues later this week in Charlotte.
“Late in games, that’s when we need him to roll and do what he does,” Griffin said, “and he did it.”