Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Clippers demonstrated exactly what has the sports world so excited. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers high-powered offense was firing on all cylinders for the first time this season as L.A. blew out the Houston Rockets 116-89.
The Clippers were the story of the brief NBA offseason. Our national sports media loves nothing more than a compelling narrative, and this year the designated story is Chris Paul choosing to join the hapless Clippers, teaming up with Blake Griffin to turn the perennial doormat into the most compelling team in the league. Invariably, the narrative gets a bit ahead of itself - - many have decided the Clippers will be not just exciting, but also a title contender - - but why let a little reality get in the way of a good story?
Through four games, the Clippers were good, but nowhere near the hype that they had generated. Sure, Chris Paul was electric in the fourth quarter of the Christmas Day win over Golden State. Yes, there were enough highlight reel dunks to keep SportsCenter moving forward. But the team was 2-2, and had looked pretty ordinary in a couple of bad losses. It was all to be expected from a team with three new starters, including a backcourt that was acquired about a week before the first game, but it wasn't satisfying to a basketball public looking to Lob City to help them forget the dark days of the lockout.
In their fifth game, the Clippers broke out the full Lob City arsenal. Straight out of the gate they hung 41 first quarter points on the Rockets and never trailed after taking a 12-10 lead. Paul was clinical in putting up 20 points on only 14 shots, along with 10 assists and 3 steals before taking the fourth quarter off -- it was the first of many 20-10 games in his Clippers career no doubt. On back to back plays in the third quarter, Paul hit DeAndre Jordan with a lob from the pick and roll in the half court, followed by a halfcourt lob to Griffin in transition. They were Paul's final assists of the evening, and the final nails in Houston's coffin, as the lead stretched to 85-62 and the benches soon took the court.
The stat of the night for the Clippers isn't 57 percent shooting or 62 points in the paint or 22 fast break points or scoring a season high 116 - - it's seven turnovers. For a team that was 29th out of 30 in the NBA last season in turnovers committed, the new backcourt of Paul and Chauncey Billups is a godsend. We know they can score, and now they take care of the ball as well - - they didn't have to play a lot of defense Wednesday night, but if they can figure that part out, they could be very good indeed.
For the Rockets, this is a game they'd just like to forget. On the second night of a back-to-back in L.A. after losing to the Lakers on Tuesday, they just ran into a buzzsaw. It happens in the NBA -- you move on. Kyle Lowry continued his stellar early season play, and tried to keep his team in the game, nailing three long threes in the first half among his 17 points. In the end, though, while Lowry and Luis Scola did a decent job of scoring, Houston was wholly incapable of keeping the Clippers from running away with the game.
Welcome to Lob City.