Ten observations from Clippers 116, Hawks 103 . . .
1. The Hawks were down 88-84 after three quarters but faded early in the fourth because of some scrambled offensive possessions, and their inability to keep Lou Williams and Austin Rivers out of the paint hurt them down the stretch. The Hawks kept overreacting to their dribble penetration, leaving Wesley Johnson open for corner threes. Johnson made his first six three-point attempts, the last one putting the Clippers up by 11 with four minutes to go.
Kent Bazemore: “Probably some over-helping on our part. The sad part is Coach kind of got on us at halftime: ‘Don’t do too much out of the corner.’ You want to play hard and it’s kind of tough to stay focused when you are flying around. And Blake Griffin being the passer he is, the attention he commands, he was able to find him over there and Wes did a good job knocking them down.”
2. The Clippers shot 44-of-76 from the field, including 15 of 30 on threes, for an effective field-goal percentage of 67.8 that’s the highest for a Hawks opponent this season (New Orleans had a 63.3 eFG%). Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s frustrations were evident when he removed Taurean Prince from the game less than a minute after halftime following a DeAndre Jordan dunk. Budenholzer: “We watched film at halftime, it was basically just a layup drill in the first half (28 Clippers points in the paint). We just gave up another layup on something we’ve worked on from Day One. It wasn’t just Taurean. Everybody has got to be better.”
3. With Luke Babbitt (back) out, Budenholzer gave rookie John Collins his first career start. Collins: “I was definitely excited. I had to calm myself down a little bit. I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life. But it’s a little big dampened with the ‘L.'” Before tonight Collins and center Dewaye Dedmon had shared the floor for 35 minutes, according to NBA.com stats, with about half of those occurring at the Spurs on Monday after Babbitt left the game.
4. Collins said he’s most looked forward to playing against Blake Griffin, whose game he wants to emulate. “When I mature in the league that’s what I want to do,” Collins said. Collins has same kind of athleticism and touch around the basket and, like Griffin early in his career, is trying to add a jump shot. Collins doesn’t yet have Griffin’s passing skills or stout body, two things Griffin had even back in college.
5. But, man, does Collins have the athleticism. Picking up from his assault on the rim at San Antonio, Collins put on a lob and putback dunk display against the Clippers. On some of those plays you saw what Patrick Beverley was talking about when he ripped his team’s lack of effort after their beatdown at the Knicks the other night. Sometimes the Clips stood and watched Collins run baseline and dunk on them. It’s no secret that’s what he does.
6. Budenholzer pregame on what he hoped to get out of the Collins-Dedmon pairing: “Hopefully better rebounding, which we need. Maybe better defense around the paint and better defense in general. They are both good athletes, they both can cover some ground. And Dwayne continues to work on his shot and improve his range so hopefully we still have good balance offensively, good spacing offensively.” DeAndre Jordan and Griffin combined for 26 rebounds compared to 16 total for Collins and Dedmon but the Hawks beat the Clippers 36-33 on the boards because the smalls chipped in: Josh Magette, Marco Belinelli, Malcolm Delaney and Dennis Schroder combined for 12 rebounds.
7. Collins spent most of his time guarding Jordan, not Griffin. (Coincidentally, rookie year Jordan is one of Collins’ player comparables in the FiveThirtyEight.com CARMELO projections). There was less risk of foul trouble for Collins when guarding the low-usage, offensively limited Jordan instead of the high-usage, offensively talented Griffin. Collins said pregame that, as the starter, he would be more mindful of not picking up cheap fouls and he did well in that regard. But Griffin and Collins combined for 40 points and 26 rebounds, with Griffin also producing 10 assists as part of a triple-double.
Collins: “Those two dudes are a lot to handle down there. You’ve got Blake, he’s really versatile, shooting the three very well (3-for-8) now in addition to (being) athletic. You’ve got DeAndre, lob threat anywhere around the rim dunking, rebounding and blocking shots. Those two guys aren’t slim, either, they are big bodies. It’s going to be a battle all night when you are going up against those guys.”
8. Collins went to the bench early in the first quarter and was replaced by Ersan Ilyasova, who played a five-minute stretch before being replaced by Tyler Cavanaugh with Collins at center. Cavanaugh came back for two later stints while Ilysaova stayed on the bench. For now at least it appears Ilyasova remains the odd man out in the power rotation when all bigs are healthy. Hard to argue with that pecking order with Cavanaugh (eight points on five shots) providing quality minutes lately.
9. Belinelli is going to shoot whether he’s making them or not. But when Belinelli is particularly cold, or when opponents run him off the three-point line, he does work to get to different spots. Tonight Belinelli was on. He shook free off screens and off the dribble while making his first six shots, just one of them a three, and seven of his first eight.
10. Ex-Spurs forward Bruce Bowen was at the game as a TV analyst for the Clippers’ broadcast. At halftime he saw Dedmon and playfully called out: “You didn’t shoot threes in San Antonio!” Dedmon didn’t then but he does now, and he’s still making them: 3-for-4 tonight, 12-for-24 on the season.
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