The Los Angeles Clippers are among the most talked about teams in the NBA this season. Sunday afternoon they thoroughly thrashed the Toronto Raptors, 103-91, and as you might suspect were led by their All-Star point guard and their dynamic, hyper-athletic big man. No, not Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. This time it was Mo Williams and DeAndre Jordan.
Paul missed his fifth straight game with a strained hamstring. Griffin played well, and started the afternoon off with a bang on an alley-oop on the Clippers' first possession. But on this day he was outshone by his frontcourt mate and bestest buddy Jordan, the impossibly long and bouncy fourth-year center who signed a four-year, $43 million contract in December. Jordan earned that money tonight, with 16 points and 16 rebounds on 7-9 shooting to go along with two blocked shots -- all in just 25 minutes of play as the Clippers starters took the fourth quarter off. Six of his seven field goals were dunks -- on half court alley oops, on lobs so high it seemed as if no one could catch them, on follow dunks, after offensive rebounds. He was simply too active for Toronto's bigs to contain, and was a major factor as the Clippers raced to a 27-9 lead in the first quarter.
Meanwhile Williams led the team in scoring for the third straight game with 26 points. Since returning from a foot injury, Williams has been on a major tear. In three games he has scored 26, 25 and 26 off the bench, while making 29-45 shots, and 8-13 three-pointers. He scored the Clippers first 17 points of the fourth quarter (in less than six minutes!), dispelling any notions the Raptors might have had about staging a comeback against the second unit. At one point he launched a deep three from three steps behind the arc with 18 seconds left on the shot clock -- a heat check if ever there was one -- and it went in. So naturally he hoisted another quick three the next time he touched the ball (this one finally missed).
As for the Raptors, their eighth consecutive loss wasn't pretty. The starters in particular were dreadful. As a group they made 9-40 shots, and only one player in the first unit made it to double figures (DeMar DeRozan with 15, though he took 19 shots to get there). Leandro Barbosa (19 points) and Linas Kleisza (16) led them in scoring, but did all of their work while trailing by double digits. The fact that new head coach Dwane Casey currently has the team focusing on defense might help explain why the offense is so anemic, but it doesn't explain why the Clippers shot over 50 percent for most of the afternoon (their shooting did drop down below 49 percentage based on some sloppy garbage time minutes). The Raptors certainly will benefit from getting leading scorer Andrea Bargnani back in the lineup (he missed his sixth straight game today, all losses), but they're going to need more than that to be competitive.
With the win, the Clippers improve to 9-5, 8-2 at home. The Raptors fall to 4-13.