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Clippers beat Charlotte, 92-87, but leave room for improvement

Coach Vinny Del Negro isn't pleased with first-half defensive effort, but they do get a rare road win despite Eric Gordon's absence and Blake Griffin's scoreless fourth quarter.

March 07, 2011|By Lisa Dillman
  • Clippers power forward Blake Griffin is fouled by Bobcats center Joel Pryzbilla in the first half Monday night in Charlotte.
Clippers power forward Blake Griffin is fouled by Bobcats center Joel Pryzbilla… (David T. Foster III / McClatchy-Tribune )

Reporting from Charlotte, N.C. — Why was Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro sounding hoarse and looking annoyed after the Clippers' 92-87 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night?

The Clippers pulled off their third straight victory, and it was a rare road win.

More improbably, it came without the pure shooting services of star guard and leading scorer Eric Gordon.

Del Negro said he wasn't pleased with the overall defensive effort in the first half and thought the Clippers came out "soft" at Time Warner Cable Arena against the faltering Bobcats.

"We have to have a tougher mentality on the road," he said. "We seem to have it more at home. But we need everybody to play at a high level and not worry about minutes and statistics and who has the ball and who's taking charges and all the little things young teams seem to worry about.

"We have to get over that hump and be a little more team-oriented and more focused at the beginning of games."

It was only the sixth road victory this season for the Clippers (24-40).

They had five players in double figures — led by Blake Griffin's 54th double-double of the season, 17 points and 15 rebounds — and a combined 29 points off the bench from Chris Kaman and Eric Bledsoe.

However, starting center DeAndre Jordan went scoreless in 17-plus minutes and was benched for most of the second half after getting a technical early in the third quarter. Rookie forward Al-Farouq Aminu had two points in 25-plus minutes, but he came up with three steals, tying his season high.

The Clippers are 5-16 without Gordon in the lineup, and they will be without him for at least the rest of this trip, possibly longer, after he reinjured his ailing right wrist Saturday.

On Monday, they received nicely balanced scoring, including Kaman's double-double, 16 points and 10 rebounds, and 17 points from recently acquired point guard Mo Williams.

This was enough to survive one of their frequent third-quarter lulls and a scoreless fourth quarter from Griffin.

"Pulling out games like this is what it's about for us," said Griffin, who was five for 11 from the field. "I'm trying to figure out my contribution for the team as far as winning goes. It's not always scoring a whole lot of points."

Then there is his partnership with Kaman on the court, a work in progress. Their comic chemistry is operating at a high level.

Griffin was fielding questions from a group of reporters while looking at the final box of game statistics. Kaman leaned over and grabbed the sheet of paper out of his hands.

Griffin: "What are you doing, dude? Why would you take that?"

Kaman: "You can't look at it and do a radio interview."

Griffin: "Yes, you can. When they ask me stuff, I interject stats."

Kaman, referring to a video operator: "She's got a camera on you, bro."

Griffin, continuing to tease Kaman: "He made six shots tonight. That's my only compliment. Six. Six for 13, oh my goodness."

Later, Kaman got serious. More or less.

"Blake is improving every game and teams are having to double- and triple-team him," he said. "One on one, he's a nightmare. I don't think there's a lot of teams that can stop him."

Not long ago, the Clippers probably would have lost if Griffin went scoreless in the final quarter. "We've got some players. We've got some guys," Kaman said. "Some guys are taking back seats to other guys, and some guys are trying to work themselves in."

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