(Blake Griffin and Chris Paul shake hands in front of Brook Lopez – @LAClippers)
The Los Angeles Clippers were in Brooklyn on Saturday to take on the Nets, and playing in New York City was a homecoming for a good amount of their team.
Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers played for the Knicks from 1992 to 1995 and was a member of their 1994 Eastern Conference Championship team.
Rivers played against one of his assistant coaches, Sam Cassell, in the 1994 Finals, as Cassell was on the Rockets at the time. Later in his career, Cassell joined the New Jersey Nets at the end of the 1996-97 season, led them to the playoffs in the 1997-98 season, and was traded the following year.
Mike Woodson is also on Rivers’ staff, and he was the Knicks’ head coach from 2012-14. Woodson led the Knicks to an Atlantic Division title in 2013.
Lawrence Frank is also a lead assistant, focusing on the defense. He had two stints with the Nets franchise, as he started as an assistant coach before becoming head coach of the New Jersey Nets from 2004 to 2009. He then returned to the franchise in Brooklyn for the 2013-14 season, where he had a very short stint as Jason Kidd’s lead assistant.
Among the players, there are plenty of New York connections, starting with Brooklyn’s own Lance Stephenson, who starred at Lincoln High School.
Clippers forward Paul Pierce played one season for the Nets, 2013-14, as he arrived from the Boston Celtics with Kevin Garnett in the trade that made Brooklyn a contender that season. Pierce left in the 2014 offseason for the Washington Wizards, where he spent one season before reuniting with Rivers, who coached him in Boston, in Los Angeles.
A few Clippers reserves played for the Knicks. Shooting guard Jamal Crawford played for the Knicks from 2004-2009, point guard Pablo Prigioni was in New York from 2012 to 2014, and Cole Aldrich was here for two season, 2013 to 2015.
On Saturday night, the Clippers dominated for most of the way, but they held off a late Nets run to win 100-105.
The Clippers took a 77-63 lead into the fourth, but the Nets pulled to within two, at 93-91, on a Thaddeus Young turnaround jumper with 3:51 remaining in the game.
Chris Paul responded with a floating jumper, Blake Griffin had an electrifying dunk, followed by an 18-foot jumper with 49 seconds left that made it 101-95 and put the game away.
Griffin said of hitting those two shots after a slump, “It’s just taking what they give us. If I get to the rim, I’ll always try to be aggressive and attack, but the shot was open and it’s a shot I work on every single day.”
Paul said of the Nets’ comeback, “Yeah, we hoped they didn’t but you know it’s kind of like deja vu after the game – was it last year or the year before last when they came back and they hit the game winner or something like that?”
Paul was referring to the last time the Clippers were in Brooklyn when Jarrett Jack got the game-winner on February 2, 2015 to give the Nets a 102-100 win.
Paul said of having to react to the Nets in the fourth quarter, “Yeah, we’ve been having big issues with closing out games so far this year. We’ve had leads on teams and we’ve let them back in, so it’s a negative in that we still let teams back in the game, but it’s a positive in that we were able to close it out.”
The Nets’ 37 points in the fourth quarter was the second-most points they have scored in a quarter this season. Brooklyn scored 38 in the second quarter on Sunday against Golden State.
This was the Clippers’ first road win against the Nets’ franchise since December 11, 2007 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
Paul said of this being the Clippers’ first win at Barclays Center, “Yeah, Lawrence Frank said something about it at shootaround today.”
Rivers said of the game, “A win on the road is always a win on the road. I thought our energy in the first half by both units was great. I thought we didn’t come out in the third quarter to put the game away. I thought we had a chance, and we just didn’t do it. I thought our second unit came in and lifted us back up again. We got out of rhythm and started missing some shots, but I loved their execution down the stretch. When you look at our last four or five games, we’ve won a lot of games down the stretch and that’s where we need to get better.”
Blake Griffin led the way for Los Angeles with 21 points on 10-for-19 from the field, with nine rebounds and four assists. Chris Paul had a double-double with 15 points (6-15 FG, 0-4 on threes) and 14 assists. DeAndre Jordan also had a double-double with 12 points (5-6 FG) and 12 rebounds.
Rivers said of Griffin’s play, “If you’re a scorer like Blake or Chris (Paul), you have to be willing to go 0-for-7. Obviously, you don’t want that to happen, but that’s the mindset you have to have. You can’t worry about misses. They should be invisible to you. To the average player, those mean something. To the great players, misses mean nothing. You put in too much time. What Blake is relying on is all that work and now he is trusting it.”
Nets center Brook Lopez said of defending Paul and Griffin, “Like I said, CP3 made some huge plays down the stretch. It’s tough with him coming off the pick and roll because he has so many different options, and he looks at himself as the last of them, so after you cover everything, he still has his jumper, getting to the basket. It’s a difficult play.”
Lopez, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, said of the Nets’ intensity level in the fourth quarter compared to the first three, “It was a strange game. We were just mixing and matching, trying to figure it out. I guess the energy wasn’t really there up to a point. We may have made the run too late, but we stuck with it, we never really let it get away from us, and the guys at the end of the game did a fantastic job of closing that gap.”
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said he was “proud of our guys, how they battled, how they competed of the game.”
Hollins said of the game, Ho “Well, you know, it was an interesting game. You know you guys had asked me about the Hack-a-Shaq (in relation to DeAndre Jordan) at the beginning, and I said that you know, it’s not something that I would do in the beginning of the game, or through the course of the game, but it was appropriate at the time (in the fourth quarter). We did it, and it brought us back. We were struggling offensively to get some flow sometimes, and trying to get the right combinations in the game that can score and also defend a little bit and also rebound a little bit. We finally turned to (Andrea) Bargnani in the fourth quarter and we had Bargnani and Thad (Young) and Bogie (Bojan Bogdanovic), Jarrett (Jack) and I forgot who the other guy was, but anyways, we wound up coming all the way back and had our chances. But you know, you’ve got to give them credit. Chris Paul hit the two shots. He hit the jumper. He hit the little floater in the lane and Blake Griffin hit the big jump shot. One of the big plays was we still had a chance to foul the big fella…DeAndre Jordan. We had a chance to foul him and we didn’t and Blake wound up getting fouled and going to the free throw line because they were in the penalty and that was huge. We could have fouled him one more time and put pressure on him to make free throws. Maybe we get the rebound and go down to score again. Maybe we take the lead and control the game, but I’m proud of our guys, how they battled, how they competed. You know, it’s just disappointing that we couldn’t come all the way back and get this win.”