Consider that performance by Michael Beasley KGesque. Beasley came through in the clutch in a big way throughout the game but, more importantly, in the last 14 second, where he effortlessly flicked a 10-footer straight into the net. And judging by how hot he was all night, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that that ball wasn’t going in. More on him later.
First off, this game started off in a bad way. Sure, we held a lead for most of the game — thanks to the 64% we shot from the field in the first half. Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon slashed their way through our slow transition defense, making easy layups and drawing fouls. Gordon’s outside shot wasn’t consistent, but it didn’t matter with how well he was driving into the paint and getting to the line. I felt like we had a serious disadvantage in speed tonight.
Another disadvantage was in the paint. It was freakishly scary to watch Blake Griffin explode in the first half for 20 points. I clearly thought that the Wolves had no chance with him scoring at will underneath the hoop. He was beating both Kevin Love and Darko with superior strength, quickness and of course athleticism. But as luck has it, Darko buckled down in the paint and made Griffin work for it, frustrating the sensational rookie, not allowing him any easy looks at the basket.
Speaking of Darko, this guy came into the game fifth in the league in blocks. He looks lazy and unmotivated on offense but is still a serious threat on defense. Tonight, Darko recorded three blocks and they all came in a big way. He forced the Clippers to work for their shots, which resulted in some forced looks by the like of Griffin in the second half. Minus a few, typical boneheaded mistakes towards the end of the game that allowed the Clippers to fight back with three minutes left — he made some pretty pathetic turnovers that are really unacceptable, — Darko, I felt, had an all-around solid performance. He fought through all the “Boo’s” and really put up an effort against a strong, quick frontline of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. He made some beautiful passes including a remarkable bounce pass from his ass through the legs of Jordan into Love’s hands, who drew the foul on a layup attempt. His post moves still lack finesse, except for a beautiful shoulder roll off of Griffin’s torso that led to a giant slam. A standing ovation greeted Darko as he lumbered back down the court. That doesn’t happen often.
Corey Brewer and Wes Johnson both looked awkward as usual handling the ball and creating their own shots. I can never trust these guys in iso situation because they always find some way to fumble the ball and turn it over.
Brewer came up big with a floater that took the lead down the stretch, but by no means did it look fluid or pretty for that matter. It’s clear that Johnson’s strength in this offense is going to come from being the second or third option on offense. He’s a little too raw to become anything special yet, but as he develops and learns, it’s clear from tonight that he has the energy and skill to become a solid starter on this squad.
And now on to Love — I have to mention most players tonight because everyone contributed in a big way. Take a look at Love’s line tonight: 24-14-4. By no means was it a 31-31 kinda night but he still got the job done and elevated the crowd to all new heights. But where Love stepped up big tonight was his interior defense. The game plan coming out of the tunnel in the second half was to double team Griffin in the post. Love played on his back most of the half and was effective doing it with the help of Darko behind him. This is the kind of defense we need out of Love, so we don’t have to worry about taking him out down the stretch because he’s a liability in the paint. Oh, and the result of the second half switch up: Griffin scored only six in the second half. Good work, Love.
And now back to the star of the show: Killer Beas. As for my statement earlier regarding Beasley looking awfully similar to KG himself, he played with such a loud passion for the game and a big heart to follow suit. After every jumper, especially the game winner, he’d skip down court and beat his chest staring maniacally into the eyes of thousands of fans. Doesn’t that bring back memories?
He took over this game in the opportune moments, shining like any other star in the NBA. His jumper was as smooth as ever; Nobody ever doubted one shot he took tonight. And that’s big. It’s big for the fans, and, more importantly, his teammates. You can see the friendship and bond that Love and Beasley have made and it speaks miles to the future of this franchise. Keep these two together, whatever it takes, don’t let them go separate ways.