This blowout victory ended up being a lot like the other 12 Clippers wins over this stretch. Playing against an undermatched opponent, the Clippers eventually broke the game open and never really left any doubt about the result. They have won these 13 games against bad teams, sure, but they are also winning by an average of nearly 16 points a game.
Two things make the Clippers especially scary. For one thing, they're incredibly deep, especially with Lamar Odom now playing better. No team in the league can match the talent of their second unit. For another, they are now much more athletic and will beat you in the open floor. Last year, they averaged 89.2 possessions per game. This year, it's all the way up to 91.5. More importantly, they convert on a really high percentage of their many additional running opportunities. Per MySynergySports.com, the Clippers are scoring on 59.1 percent of plays classified as "in transition," tied with the Miami Heat for second-highest in the NBA behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. The difference? The Clippers get 14.9 percent of their offense on these plays, while the Heat and Thunder get just 14 and 13.4 percent, respectively.
A lot of the fast breaking is done by the Clippers' bench, but I've also noticed a change in Chris Paul. Traditionally, Paul has preferred to walk the ball up and surgically dismantle a team in the halfcourt. He's never really been a running point guard. This year, though, he seems to have loosened the reigns a bit, and it's paid off. The Clippers know that they can win grind it out games with Paul, but now, they can also terrorize you in transition. It's changed the entire way they get defended and scouted.
Bottom line: the Clippers are for real.
Rick Carlisle lit into his team after this one, which is understandable, but also probably just a lot of hot air. The Mavericks usually seem ready to play, and they can sometimes be unselfish. They just don't have the talent and they have yet to figure out a set rotation to maximize it. Thirteen players played at least nine minutes for the Mavericks in this one. That's the entire roster.
It feels weird to say this, but I don't think this team is especially well-coached right now. Carlisle is best served living with the mistakes guys like Darren Collison and Dominique Jones make and giving them an opportunity to continue to shine.
As for Dirk Nowitzki, he looked fine in his first game back. Nobody should have expected fireworks, and nobody got them.
This was a tough loss for Minnesota. They led the entire way through, but thanks to Carmelo Anthony's brilliance and possibly a little help from the officials, they couldn't pull through to get the win. They will get better because of this experience.
As for the Knicks, they should be a bit worried. They haven't played especially well in their past few games, save for their victory over the Nets. The Timberwolves became the latest team to occasionally take advantage of their small lineup, and while the return of Amar'e Stoudemire may help, it's not like he fixes their struggling defense.
Nets 95, 76ers 92
Both teams badly needed this win. The 76ers are about to go out West for seven games, while the Nets are obviously struggling. In the end, the Nets just had a little bit extra to get the win.
Brooklyn started Gerald Wallace at power forward in this one and found a lot of success with it. I wouldn't be surprised if that's how they play the rest of the season.
Overall, this was a great performance by a Jazz team that may not have Mo Williams for a while. The Magic rallied and made this one interesting, but the Jazz were usually in control. At this point, a victory in Orlando is not a given.
Kings 108, Blazers 96
Someone in Sacramento needs to hypnotize Travis Outlaw and convince him that he's playing the Blazers every night. Outlaw scored 15 points on seven shots against his former team, and the Kings just seemed a step faster than the tired Blazers in the win.