There are nights where teams beat themselves and there are nights when teams get outplayed. Last night the Charlotte Bobcats outplayed the Los Angeles Clippers and earned a physical 95-91 victory. For the Clippers, being without the leadership of Chris Paul, it is easy to see where the team might not come out and match the effort of the Bobcats. In the midst of this road swing, with fatigue setting in, squaring off against against teams motivated to beat a Western Conference power on their home court, it becomes clear how difficult it is to one up or even match the energy of the opponent each night.
Last night, Al Jefferson was extremely effective for Charlotte scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 boards. The Clippers knew the key position battle in the contest would be Jefferson verse DeAndre Jordan. Jefferson used his lethal combination of size and strength to prevail over the taller, thinner Jordan. Big D was not completely outclassed as he finished with 4 points and 20 rebounds.
The real difference was the lack of bench production the Clippers reserves provided. They shot 34% on 12-35 shooting from the field including a 2-12 effort from behind the arc. Jamal Crawford finished with 20 points, but struggled from three going 2-8. Once again, Charlotte deserves a lot of credit for playing sensational defense and blanketing the Clippers shooters causing them to force up bad, off balance jumpers.
Blake Griffin was the only real bright spot for the Clippers, tallying 27 points on 11-20 shooting, grabbing 7 boards and dishing out 7 assists. Griffin drew a fair amount of double teams and displayed very good vision in his post passing finding the open man. His contributions will continue to be vital, especially against the Bulls on Friday night as Carlos Boozer(although listed as DTD in the injury report) is known as one of the better defenders at the power forward position.
The Chicago Bulls have battled the injury bug once again. In the beginning of the season, this was pitted to be a primetime matchup between two elite point guards and furthermore two elite teams. Due to injuries both teams are currently tied for fourth in their respective conferences. The Bulls have come on strong as of late, going (8-2) in their last 10 games and are now over .500 on the season. As usual, defense has been they key to success for Tom Thibodeau’s ball club as they rank 2nd in points allowed per game. The Clippers on the other hand rank 5th in points scored per game, and as the old cliche goes “something has to give”.
The Clippers energy level will be the key to success for them, but it will be a challenge for this team that has competed in 4 games in the last week, and three of them against the most physical teams in the Eastern Conference(Pacers, Bobcats, Bulls). Doc Rivers will need to stress the importance of a fast start to his players. Once again, the matchup to watch will be in the post as two of the leagues top 10 rebounders will go at it in DeAndre Jordan and Joakim Noah.