This is what it was like for the San Antonio Spurs during their first loss this season. DeAndre Jordan flying high, and what people call the Los Angeles Clippers since the arrival of Blake Griffin and later Chris Paul, Lob City, in full effect. And lets not forget about the Clippers’ underrated defense, that has been looking pretty good early on this season.
When the Clippers run like this, there’s nothing much anyone can do. The Spurs were careless with the ball and a bit surprised by how the Clippers defended during the third quarter, which sent Tony Parker and Tim Duncan to an early sit down on the bench. This night was about youth, speed and high flying dunks.
This was a night for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, both finishing with a 20-10 double double (Griffin with 22-10, Jordan with 20-11) while Chris Paul, who hasn’t thrown this many alley-oops in one game for quite a while, finished with 12 assists. The Spurs’ depth and intelligent play wasn’t even a factor in this game, in which they were simply run off the floor.
This is something a few people have been expecting to see from the Clippers. Making their defense happen; making it a major factor in their game, hopefully consistently. When their defense works, meaning Blake Griffin uses all the athleticism for more than just dunks and DeAndre Jordan defends wisely instead of just trying to swat anything that comes his way, the Clippers have an opportunity to run and not get caught.
They trapped at the right times and kept the Spurs at 41.1% from the field, forcing 20 turnovers. Maybe it’s all a matter of energy, of intensity that the Clippers were lacking in their previous two games. Like Griffin said on DeAndre Jordan: When D.J.’s on his game, he’s tough. He can score, catch anything, alter and block shots. When he’s active like that, the paint is controlled by him.
And the Clippers need to grow up into that phase. When no matter what’s going on with their offense, they always show up on defense. A team that has too many highs and lows regarding their consistency and commitment in stopping the other team can’t expect to be a major contender in the west. The Clippers show up for the big games, but have seemed to be taking the “easy” ones for granted, leading to two somewhat surprising losses considering their opening two games this season.
There’s also the depth factor that has been greatly improved this season. While Chauncey Billups is still out, the addition of Jamal Crawford looks like a perfect bingo; Eric Bledsoe is combining very well with him in the second unit’s backcourt, and everyone’s waiting for Lamar Odom to wake up from the professional coma he’s slipped into since being traded to the Dallas Mavericks last season.
This is the model, the blueprint, for future success. They have Paul for this year, and who knows what’s going to happen in the summer. If the Clippers have any hope of keeping him beyond 2013, this season has to be just as good as the previous one, maybe even better. The funny thing is, that in a conference that’s supposed to be controlled by the Thunder and the Lakers, the Clippers were kind of overlooked. Just like the Spurs often are. Not anymore.