Legitimate is a word that gets bandied about like steam from a boiling tea kettle. Is this player a legitimate NBA player? Does that team have a legitimate interior defender? Does player X have a legitimate chance of scoring on player Y? You’ve heard them all before and honestly you will continue to hear them till you die. It’s just part of our culture in sports to evaluate and question if something is what we think it is. Sometimes the questions themselves are legitimate (Ha, see what I did there) and sometimes well sometimes they are just excuses for people looking for anything to tear someone or something down.
Our current team is no stranger this line of questioning. Forget the fact that prior to today we were 15-1 there were several people, some even right here on this board who questioned how legitimate that record was. After all the entire east is weak, there are only a couple of good teams in the East and we happen to be one of the two and we have yet to face the other. Well after today’s win we are now 4-0 against the almighty West and while we still have several more hurdles to take I think that today’s win goes a long actually a very long way in answering some of those questions of legitimacy. The teams we have beaten in the West are all playoff caliber teams and we did play the Grizzlies prior to Gasol going down with injury and the Pelicans before Davis was injured. Frankly we just abused the T-Wolves and made them look like the lower level team that they strive to be every year.
But this win today, that was something different altogether. This Clipper team is one of the darlings of the NBA, on TV all the time and they just love to talk about their big market teams especially when they do well.
I’ll be honest I’ve only watched a couple of Clippers games this year but what I thought would happen prior to the game is pretty much what happened during the game. Every time I’ve seen them play it has always been vs. another of the West coast run and gun team where everybody was scoring with impunity and defense was some distant cousin that they talked about at family reunions.
In other words they hadn’t run into a team like us. Make no mistake about it, we controlled this game. Yes they made runs; they are an NBA team after all and yes there were a couple of times that it looked scary and it was closer than it needed to be (we’ll talk shortly about why this was) but at the end of the day we controlled this game including the times where we almost didn’t.
Our defense is a Python squeezing the life out of you. You can struggle and feel like your making progress all the while we tighten down and choke the life out of you. Sure some teams are going to get hot and hit their three’s, not much you can do on nights like that but more nights that won’t happen and as we control the paint and the boards teams just will continue to fall to our war machine.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are not invincible and there are weaknesses that can be exploited. However most of our weaknesses are of our own doing and some teams will exploit that, which was the case today.
How did this become closer than it was the rest of the day? Well a couple of reasons actually. First the Clippers are not without talent as obviously Chris Paul is a true star and Jamaal Crawford has made a career out of scoring against us. But to me the second reason was the biggest reason. We stopped making them play our game and sped up the offense making this more of a shootout towards the end. A pathetic shoot out mind you as neither team could hit from the floor but the game sped up. The reason I blame us and not credit them was because to me anyway it started on the offensive end as our guys were settling for jump shots and stopped trying to work the post or penetrate. This left a lot of misses out there that they were able to clear up and run with.
But when push came to shove our defense clamped down again, our big men controlled the boards again and the end result is that we now set atop the world as the only 16-1 team in the NBA.
No people we don’t have a rough schedule ahead of us, the teams that we are facing are going to be facing an absolute buzz saw of a team that will defend you like nothing you have ever experienced in you life.
Or as Frank Vogel said in the post game. “We're the best defense in the world we trust our ability to get stops."
Now I will issue a clarion call here, it’s not something that I want to overemphasize because so far for the year it has not been an issue but let’s be honest here. Today the bench sucked, it gave up a big lead and just could not get into any kind of offensive rhythm or flow at all. I trust that won’t happen again but for today the bench only gave you 17 points and did not really give our starters the extra time to rest that they have been getting. So in a way the fact that we got the day game and the Lakers/Blazers got the night game will work out well for us in the long run.
Let’s do some grades:
Paul George: A I’m tempted to give him an A- but I’ll stick with the A. He started off like he was going for 40 today but for whatever reason stopped hitting as the game went on. Hey it happens but the only thing that bothers me a little is that when things stop going he doesn’t really do anything to try and get to the line and while he is a good three point shooter I just don’t want him to fall in absolute love with that shot. 10 in a game is the upper threshold for me but I freely admit I just don’t like that shot. Other than that solid game on D and he had a very under rated pass to a cutting D. West for a layup. I think he could have done a little more on the boards but I’m not complaining about 6 from the small forward. This is coming off far more critical than I intended for it to. Paul was his normal *** kicking self.
David West: A++ A man called horse or probably more appropriately he should be called a Brahma bull. God I love a player who plays better and smarter when he is madder. Blake Griffin made the mistake of trying to be tough with David West. You’ll have to forgive me for a few min. while I double over laughing at this….Okay I’m back. What an idiot. All he did was cause David West to have only the best game of the season and for him to absolutely abuse and use Griffin. BTW, someone should really tell Blake that the Griffin Force commercials for KIA are really…well the only think that comes to my mind is that they are doing for him what the “rock me tonight” video did for Billy Squire. Anyway David just threw the team on his back in the 3rd quarter and just laid waste to the Clippers leaving bodies in his path and small children frightened of the visage death that David was for the high flying Clippers.
Can I take a break for a moment to tell you what a joke all of those high flying lobs are when facing a team like us? Sure just like anyone I want to be entertained and I like a good throw down as much as the next guy but honest to God that was just to overly dramatic for a team that never led at the end of any quarter. I’ve seen Gerald Green throw down some monster jams as well, didn’t fool me for a min into thinking he was a good basketball player and frankly Jordan’s high flying dunks don’t make me think he is a legitimate center either. He was used all day like a coat rack by Roy Hibbert and all anyone on any highlight show is going to want to talk about is the “lob city” dunks. Enjoy your highlights gentlemen I’ll take the win.
Roy Hibbert: A I’m really only more upset in the fact that we didn’t go to Roy enough in the second half and let him slow the game down for us. I’ll say this politely here; DeAndre Jordan had as much a chance of guarding Roy Hibbert successfully as I have of guarding DeAndre Jordan. In other words none. Roy is bigger, stronger, and longer and has more basketball talent in his left elbow than Jordan has in his entire body. Sadly though Roy is going to be dropping in the shot blocking department as he has now had a few games of just one block. Again we are not about individual awards so as long as we win overall that’s all that matters but it would be nice for Roy to get that DPOY award and if he drops in the stat to far I’m afraid they won’t give it to him.
Lance Stephenson: A Again tempted to go with the A- because I thought more than once in the second half he caused us to lose possession due to over dribbling and not giving the ball up soon enough. But overall once again when your two guard is grabbing 10 boards in a game to go along with 6 assists it’s hard to argue as long as everyone else is scoring. That time that he knocked that ball away from Jamaal Crawford for the steal in the second half though was superb.
George Hill: A Kids got their backpacks today. Again I’m giving the A because as a unit they really deserve it however he had some uneven moments today. But again it’s hard to be harsh on the guy when he is having to guard Chris Paul. All but one of Jordan’s lobs came because Hill let Paul get around him, but again It’s Chris Paul so what can you really do about it. However to George’s credit he took it right to him on the other end in the 4th quarter and we all know that he is not afraid to take the big shot. Also while the stat line doesn’t really show it much I just thought he controlled the tempo of the game more when he was in there for the most part.
C.J. Watson: C- really a bad game for him. Didn’t defend up to his normal standard and 1-6 from the field is not what we are looking for from him. Also I do realize that sometimes our offense is designed this way but I really would like to see him do something else other than just stand out there and fling 3 point shots. 5 of his 6 were from behind the stripe. He’s still a hell of an upgrade from last year but today just wasn’t his day.
Luis Scola: C- A combination of David West being really hot today and an off day for Luis made me actually do the clock countdown for the bench that I haven’t done all season long today. Just not a strong performance from him today at all as he missed a couple of bunnies at the rim that he normally makes. Again still a massive upgrade from last season but today just wasn’t his day. I think he will make Portland pay for it though.
Ian Mahinmi: C Meh, not good not bad. Just kind of there.
Orlando Johnson Solomon Hill: C Developmental minutes. Neither did anything either great or bad.
Okay one down several more to go.
I’m probably going to jinx us but I just have the feeling that we are going to lay waste to the Blazers. Out of all of the teams that have good records I think they are the one with the most smoke and mirrors. They have not faced a team like us yet and while I think Aldridge is a great forward he is NOT going to over power our team and Lillard will not get in the lane on us like he does other teams. The only hope they have at all against us is if that three ball is falling but even then they are going to have to hit it at both a high % and a high frequency.
So in other words Pacers fans on your feet. It’s time for the celebratory fruit of life dance and to provide our dancing music the only thing that comes to my mind right now is a head banging anthem from Pantera which kind of describes our team "Cowboys from hell".