Not just Chris Paul, not only Blake Griffin. The Clippers are beating every big team they come across thanks to a much improved defense and some wonderful play off the bench from Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe, which should make them, at least in some people’s books, the best team currently in the NBA.
Wait, lets hang on. This team did lose to the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers at home while allowing 111 points on average in those games. It’s only when the big names come into town, notching up wins over the Lakers, Grizzlies, Spurs and the Heat so far this season, that this team completely immerses itself into the game.
A difference between last season? Deeper, much deeper than ever before, and that’s without an injured Grant Hill or Lamar Odom, who is playing 11.6 minutes a night, but it’s amazing to see just how low he has sunk, averaging 1.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. In less than a year, one of the more useful and talented bench players in the NBA has turned into one big sack of useless.
As Chris Paul said after the win over the Heat: Our bench is not really a bench. Just about every night we go into a game, we’re going to have an advantage with our bench. Paul finished with 16 points and 10 assists, but after a 33-20 quarter, it was the second unit guys who finished the game.
Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford, coming off the bench, combining for 34 points and shooting 12-19 from the field. They made Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade looked slow and old. While you’d expect that from Bledsoe, 22, in his third NBA season, Crawford is older than Wade is. In Wade’s defense, he isn’t 100% during this Heat road trip.
I know my role. My role is to score and make plays. Bled’s going to run the show and make exciting plays. Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf are going to set picks and do the dirty work. Matt’s guarding everybody from 1 to 4. So we all understand that and feel comfortable with each other.
Crawford is averaging 20.5 points per game in somewhat of rebounding season for him after struggling with the Portland Trail Blazers last season. But as much as he’s brought on an offensive change from the bench, it’s the way this team plays defense together in the crucial moments that has set them apart.
Blake Griffin pulled off an impressive stat line against the Heat, finishing with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 9 rebounds and just under 4 assists per game this season. He’s shooting a lot less than before, but signs of adapting and improving are evident. In his effort on defense. In his awareness on both ends of the floor, and by refusing to simply let his athleticism carry him around the league. Griffin wants to be one of the best, and only by adding to his skill set instead of relying on his hops will he reach that goal.
Eric Bledsoe was responsible for the most memorable moment of the game, stopping a Miami Heat fast break by rejecting a Dwyane Wade dunk at the rim. It seemed natural to him, only trying to make up for the turnover he was responsible for.
The Heat weren’t as bad as in their previous road losses, going down 100-107. But they’ve lost their last three visits to the Clippers. There’s nothing new about This team rising up to best the best in the NBA, but there seems to be a different sense and aura to it now. With the kind of confidence that this will lead to big things; things the Clippers haven’t really seen or done in the past.