I guess when you have someone who plays crunch time in bullet time, it's not really crunch time, is it? When you have someone capable of scoring eight of your final 10 points, you don't really have to worry that your half-court offense is entirely reliant on moments of individual brilliance from your stars, rather than finding open looks for players through passing and off-the-ball movement. There's something magical about the Clippers (and I don't mean that in the sun-dappled, wheat-field-blowing way ... I mean that in the down-market Vegas lounge act way). You watch them, and it just doesn't make any sense. You could tell me they had the best or worst offensive efficiency in the league (it's closer to the former), and I'd believe you. But when you have Chris Paul in the fourth quarter, magic goes out the window. It stops making sense. Maybe you don't want to need him — if the Clippers had done better than 2-of-15 from behind the arc, or hadn't fouled the Grizzlies back into the game, they might not have required his legendary crunch-time services — but it's nice to know he's there, just in case.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. The Pacers
That's eight wins out of the last nine for Indiana, five straight, and the end of a 4-0 road trip, which included two victories in Texas (Dallas and Houston) and a big win in Los Angeles against the Clippers last night. You could say it was a moral victory for the Clippers, who came back from a 24-point deficit to get back into the game. But maybe it was moral victory and victory-victory for the Pacers, who held on in a tough situation. The Pacers got a visit from the goon squad when Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins went into full nuisance mode in the second half. They got Hibbert out of his locked-in, first-half groove (he had 15 points in the first quarter) and into foul trouble. The Georgetown big man fouled out with about a minute and a half to go, but on his way back to the bench gave his teammates Tyler Hansbrough (seen above) and Lance Stephenson a friendly shove. Real friendly.
It’s bad for your health to care about All-Star selections. The selection process is flawed in minor ways, and with only 12 spots, deserving players will be left home every year. Still: All-Star selections matter, perhaps more than they should, when it comes time to assess a player’s place in NBA history. Rajon Rondo just made his fourth All-Star team. Here is the total list of point guards who have made at least that many All-Star appearances since the league adopted the 3-point shot: Magic Johnson (12), Isiah Thomas (12), John Stockton (10), Jason Kidd (10), Gary Payton (9), Steve Nash (8), Chris Paul (6), Chauncey Billups (5), Tim Hardaway (5), Tony Parker (5), Maurice Cheeks (4), and Mark Price (4).
So with four All-Star selections, Rondo has now zoomed passed most of the “very good” point guard crop of the past 30 years, and is a couple of appearances away from jumping into the “certain Hall of Famer” group. As Rondo ages and folks debate his Hall of Fame credentials, his number of All-Star appearances will come up as evidence of his Springfield worthiness.