Just like last season, the Los Angeles Clippers are forced into life with Chris Paul for a few weeks, as the point guard separated his shoulder after a collision with Monta Ellis that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Clippers from beating the Dallas Mavericks 119-112.
During the third quarter, Paul was trying to get by Ellis, but got tangled up with the Mavs’ guard and fell badly to the floor on his right shoulder. People are used to Paul flopping and making the most of these situations, but this time it was an actual injury, and he left the court grabbing his shoulder.
The Clippers did well without. Paul scored 19 points in 22 minutes on the floor, but Collison, who played for Paul during another long injury for the point guard when they were teammates in New Orleans, scored 20 points off the bench and provided even better defense than the man he replaced. The Clippers played more physical basketball as the game advanced, something the Mavs couldn’t compete with.
As long as it was a shooting competition, Dallas looked like the better team. Dirk Nowitzki finished with 24 points on 10-of-17 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Shawn Marion was left quite open too many times, adding 20 points of his own. The problem for the Mavs was when their physicality and defense were tested in the second half, and they couldn’t reply. It’s quite hard when you have Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on one side while the Mavs have Samuel Dalembert as their center.
Griffin continues his excellent form, scoring 25 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and adding 5 assists, showing again and again how improved of a player he is this season. Not just dunks, not just life in the paint, but the ability to create for himself and others, not to mention suddenly shooting well from the line, finishing with 11-of-13 and 70.4% this season. There were a few high flying highlights as usual, but Griffin is one of the best power forwards in the league for far more than simply being an exciting player.
The same goes for Jordan, who continues to get most of his points through dunking (including some spectacular ones), but he’s improving as a defensive player. He was always a good blocker, but Doc Rivers is trying to make him into someone who doesn’t mess up rotations and doesn’t have to challenge shots in order to be effective. The best defensive big men in the league, like Roy Hibbert or Marc Gasol, change shots simply by being on the court and moving into the right spot all the time.
Jordan finished the game with 25 points and 18 rebounds, adding 3 blocks while shooting 11-of-14 from the field. The Clippers are going to need him and Griffin to be a lot more like this each night in order to get through this patch of no Paul without sliding too far down the standings in the Western conference, as a backcourt of Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford can easily get out of hand.