Clippers 105, Bucks 98: Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan put on their private dunk contest

Let's make it official: the Clippers are the most enjoyable basketball team to watch in Los Angeles, and as far as the Bucks are concerned, the tougher team to beat as well.

A month after the Bucks throttled the defending champion Lakers at the Staples Center, the decidedly younger and more athletic Clippers showed Milwaukee what late night League Pass viewers have been witnessing all year: Blake Griffin is a force of nature. Despite the best efforts of former Clipper Corey Maggette (25 pts, 6/13 fg, 13/15 ft), the Bucks had no answers for the raw athleticism and finishing ability of Griffin (32 pts, 11 rebs, 6 ast) and DeAndre Jordan (16 pts, 7/8 fg, 7 rebs, 5 blk). To make matters worse, Randy Foye looked more than capable filling in for Eric Gordon, while Baron Davis kept the Bucks off-balance all game (18 pts, 7 ast, 5 rebs) with his patient, probing P&R game.

The first quarter was little more than a showcase for the Clippers' athleticism. DeAndre Jordan dunked in transition, dunked off an alley-oop, and dunked all over Bogut with his weaker right hand. Blake Griffin, meanwhile, opened the game with a 17-foot banker--just for laughs?--before throwing down a long-distance alley-oop from Baron Davis and then a breakaway windmill with not a Buck in sight. The pace was getting away from the Bucks, and trailing 26-14 they were looking more like the Washington Generals than the team that had won three in a row.

Thankfully, this Brandon Jennings character can still get hot in a hurry. After missing his first two shots and turning the ball over at the end of the first, Jennings started the second with consecutive threes, followed by a deft lob inside for Mbah a Moute, then another long two to bring the Bucks back to within 28-26. Luc's aggressiveness inside also began to pay off (4/4, 8 pts in the half), while Bogut began to find more room on the block (8 pts in the second after a scoreless opening period).  

Still, Griffin (19 pts, 8/13 fg in the half) continued to score regardless of who the Bucks threw at him. Bogut fell victim to a trio of spinning finishes from Griffin off the dribble before deciding to let him shoot a pair of jumpers towards the end of the second--one bricked, one pure.   The problem for the Clippers was their shooting a ball control; even with the Bucks increasingly sagging down on Griffin, the Clips made just 1/8 from three in the half turned it over ten times, providing the Bucks the lifeline needed to stay within 49-47 at intermission.

The second quarter trend continued in the third, as the Bucks had no answers for Griffin but stretched their lead to 71-64 thanks to a 9/11 shooting start to the period. Though he was fighting a losing battle trying to contain Griffin on the defensive end, Ilyasova continued to rain jump shots and Maggette was living at the foul line he used to call home (hard to believe he spent eight years with the Clips). But the Clips began crashing the boards and making the Bucks look small, running off a 13-2 run to finish the period and take a 77-73 lead into the final period. Jon Brockman had the roughest end of it, getting annihilated on yet another DeAndre Jordan alley-oop, then picking up an offensive foul on a Jordan flop, and finally getting suckered into a foul by Griffin on a rake play.  

Maggette helped the Bucks edge back into the lead early in the fourth, but the Clips then took the lead for good with Griffin and Jordan watching from the bench. Bogut appeared a step slow defensively all night and suddenly couldn't keep up with Ike Diogu of all people, who scored six points as Bogut developed a limp that eventually required attention on the bench. Jordan seemed to cap it with yet another alley-oop, thundering a one-hander off a casual flip from Foye, but the Bucks chipped away at the Clipper lead before Foye's open three with 42 seconds left sealed it.   

Three Bucks

Corey Maggette. The former Clipper was the Bucks' stabilizing force offensively for most of the night, drawing a boatload of fouls (13/15 ft, 25 pts) to offset a dose of overconfidence from three (0/4). 

Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova simply isn't missing jump shots anymore, hitting 7/8 tonight en route to 15 points and six boards. The problem is that he also fouled out for the second time in three games, though it's not like any of his teammates had any hope of guarding Griffin one-on-one either.

Andrew Bogut. Bogut's scoring (6/9 fg, 2/5 ft, 14 pts) was almost all opportunistic--at the moment I can't even recall him scoring more than maybe one shot out of a post-up situation--but I shouldn't complain given that we need more 6/9 nights and fewer 7/18 nights.  Defensively Bogut had a harder time, as he didn't have the footspeed or agility to defend Griffin and seemed slightly slow to react as a help defender.

Three Numbers

39. That's the number of double-doubles this year for Griffin in 47 games. Tonight he ripped off a ho-hum 32 points, 11 boards and six dimes: he dunked, he showed off his baby hook, he even hit jump shots. All he has to do is stay healthy...

17:26. Brandon Jennings once again played with a time limit, but thankfully he actually made an impact when he was on the court, scoring 12 on 5/13 shooting with three assists.

52%. The Bucks shot the ball well by their standards (49%), but they simply couldn't defend the Clips well enough to come away with a win.Though they hit just 2/13 from deep, L.A. still managed 52% shooting on the night in addition to 93% from the stripe, where they're the worst in the league.

Three Good

Brandon's back. His shooting line was still a bit crooked, but Jennings reminded everyone of how quickly he can make an impact when he ignited the Bucks' rally in the second quarter and then blew by the Clipper defense for a pair of layups in the fourth.

Ersan's stroke.  What's gotten into this guy?  He made 5/5 long twos and his only three tonight, meaning he's now hit 15/17 shots from 16-23 feet over the past four games (and 3/5 threes).

Blake. He's not wearing the right jersey, but damn is this kid fun to watch. 

Three Bad

Washington Generals. We all know the Bucks aren't going to win a pogo-stick competition, but good lord.  I haven't seen the final dunk tally but it seemed like the Clips threw down a half dozen alley-oops and their athleticism was also evident on the other end with a 7-1 advantage in blocked shots. Also, Ike Diogu?  And no, I don't even want to acknowledge that Bogut may have banged up his knee late in the game...

Brockless Monster. Just a forgettable night for Jon Brockman, whose most notable contribution was getting killed (figuratively) by Jordan on one of his 18 alley-oops--and then nearly got killed (literally) when he dragged Jordan down by the jersey. He also rimmed out a key reverse layup down the stretch and let  Davis beat him to a key offensive rebound with just over a minute remaining, which had us all wondering if Larry Sanders was so clueless that he couldn't have gotten a sniff of the court.

Not-so-clutch Carlos.  Delfino had a tough night shooting the ball (2/9 fg, 0/4 threes) and he committed two key turnovers on consecutive possessions late: a charge with the Bucks down four with 1:27 left and stepping out of bounds on the catch with 41 ticks left. It was all too reminiscent of his shaky play down the stretch in Toronto, wasn't it?

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