March 26, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) guards New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Marco Belinelli (8) in the second half of the game at the Staples Center. Clippers won 97-85. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Until the second half, this game lacked most of the hostility and bite we were treated to on Thursday; despite the presence of Chris Paul, it was merely one slightly above average team beating down a very, very bad one. Eventually, we had the pleasure of a Clipper fan striking Monty Williams with a piece of trash and Blake Griffin hitting Trevor Ariza's midsection in mid-air, but even so, tonight was a throwback to the sleepy, meandering, pointless games that have come to define a season.
Why We Lost
Turnovers, turnovers, and more turnovers.
New Orleans gave away the ball without attempting a shot 29 times tonight, matching their mark from February 2nd, 1992 as the third worst in franchise history. In a 95 possession game, 29 turnovers qualifies as a 31% turnover rate, which, needless to say, is absolutely absurd.
Most everywhere else, it was an even game. Los Angeles held the advantage from beyond the arc via the bench shooting of Nick Swaggy P. Young (who was "was born and raise N West LA Ca since 85"), but the Hornets attempted ten more free throws (it didn't help that they also missed ten free throws). Both sides were all over the defensive glass too. And so it's rare that you see a blowout (which this game certainly was, outside of a fourth quarter run) come down to a single factor, but that's exactly what happened here.
- The Clippers' opening run (18-2) put the Hornets in a massive hole from the start. It was a confluence of factors that caused it - the Clippers were clearly fired up after Friday's embarrassing loss, the Hornets missed a few gimme shots and free throws, and L.A. looked particularly amped to get out in transition. New Orleans did a good job of getting back into the game almost immediately, but that +16 advantage factored hugely into the +7 lead L.A. left the first quarter with.
- [1st, 5:28] Chris Johnson throws down the alley oop from Jarrett Jack. It was awesome. The crowd went into a sort of stunned silence that Lob City had been lobbed and dunked on, though it hardly should have come as a surprise given the Clips' defense on the season.
- [2nd, 8:08] It's honestly difficult to distinguish between the Hornets' bench and starters at this point due to the fluidity between the two groups. Tonight's bench really did a good job in their first stint together. Over a short period, Carl Landry was arguably the best offensive player on the floor for either time, but New Orleans made it work with Greivis Vasquez and Xavier Henry getting easy buckets. The Hornets tied the game in this stretch with an 8-1 run. It gradually fell part as Clipper starters re-entered.
- Chris Paul took over the game in the third quarter, scoring 15 points, drawing a charge, and handing out an assist. Simply a case of a superstar crushing a terrible team; Paul did it to the Clippers for a half decade.
- [3rd, 7:02] Blake Griffin goes up to meet Trevor Ariza, extends both arms downwards into his body, and throws him to the ground. From the regular television angle, it looked a clean attempt at a block, but from the baseline camera, it's clear that Griffin smashed into Ariza with his body before getting the ball. Ariza, to his credit, got up immediately; he could easily have stayed on the ground for a couple minutes the way Blake did on Thursday night because the hit was just as hard (and Ariza was in the air too). The assessed flagrant I strikes me as appropriate.
- [3rd, 5:20] This play was hardly a "key moment," but well worth watching if you have access to a replay - both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul flop to the ground within seconds of each other due to incidental contact with Gustavo Ayon.
- Jarrett Jack and Greivis Vasquez combined for 11 turnovers to their 12 assists, and Jack didn't shoot well at all. To his credit, Jack did a reasonably good defensive job on Paul until the third quarter when CP3 simply exploded.
- Eric Gordon was seen standing and applauding at multiple junctures of the game. It's sad that we're left to read into miniscule, idiotic signs like these, but it's really all we have now with Gordon.
- Speaking of homecomings, Al-Farouq Aminu was all over the long jumper game. He finished 7 for 8, and his shot seemed to have the peculiarly high arc to it that we've seen at infrequent intervals this year. I've been down on Aminu virtually since his acquisition (outside of his solid defensive rebounding), but if he can introduce mid-range (or longer) ability to his arsenal, a lot changes.
- Happy birthday, Marco Belinelli.
- It's great to see Carl Landry on the court again though it's unfortunate it has to come under these circumstances. Considering impact on both ends of the floor, Landry was probably New Orleans' best player.
- Xavier Henry flashed his ability to get to the line once again (6 FTA in 21 minutes) even though his inability to knock down those free throws continues to confound. Still, 8 points on 5 shots (especially when he wasn't shooting well) is nothing to complain about. Chris Johnson joined him in that efficiency, getting 11 on 6 looks.
Clips Nation has the Clipper perspective.
Here's the box score.