“Can we hope for a single digit loss? Is that asking entirely too much?”
— A modest pre-game request from commenter Slax.
For over three quarters, it looked probable, didn’t it? But a 22-0 Lakers run in the fourth quarter made the final score of this game indistinguishable from the other recent blowouts.
Do you really want to dissect the anatomy of a 22-0 run? I don’t. Instead, let’s take a more general look at what was working early, and what went awry late.
The starting unit [first Marcus Camby at the PF, then Tim Thomas who subbed in after Camby picked up his second foul] put up big numbers early – 18 points before the 6:00 mark in the first quarter, and 29 for the quarter.
- [1st, 8:24] This is a basic drive-and-kick, which Baron likes to run in transition. It’s pretty simple: Baron Davis gets a high screen from Thomas. Thornton is on the left wing; Cat is on the right. Baron drives left to draw Vlad Radmanovic from Thornton. It works. Davis kicks it out to Thornton, who pump-fakes, almost takes the shot from 25, but then realizes he has the space to dribble closer in. He opts for the latter option, pulls up to 18 and nails the shot. Well-designed and smart use of personnel, good execution, a mature decision from Thornton to take a higher-percentage shot, and – of course, the shot falls.
- [1st, 8:18] The Clippers set up early off a Lakers’ make. The ball goes to Thornton atop the right arc. He’s being covered by Kobe Bryant. Thornton tries to back Bryant in, but it’s apparent early on that this isn’t going to be the shot. Instead, Thornton dishes it left to Thomas at the top of the arc. The ball continues around the perimeter to Davis, who’s to Thomas’ left. If the ball were to continue its full revolution around the arc, Mobley – who’s situated in the right corner – would be next. But Mobley recognizes that Radmanovic is cheating high. This affords Mobley the opportunity to make a baseline cut across the court. Mobley lands all by himself in the right corner. Davis makes a brilliant skip pass over to Mobley, who nails the 3PA.Even against the better teams, there’s almost always one defensive lapse like that per possession, but they usually last only a nanosecond. The challenge is being able to exploit it. Good teams do. Lesser teams – less so.
Kaman doesn’t get many shots tonight, but the ones he attempts are, once again, decisive – including a nice turnaround jump shot without putting the ball on the floor against Gasol in the mid-post.
So what doesn’t work [apart from, like, a missed wide-open dunk underneath the basket] during the blackout in the 4th?
- [4th, 7:42] A lousy backdoor pass from Ricky Davis that’s intercepted by Lamar Odom.
- [4th: 7:07] Off the baseline inbound, the ball goes into Tim Thomas. TT then lobs a lazy pass up top to Baron Davis – only it never gets there. As careless a play as you’ll see in pro ball.
- [4th, 6:51] It goes into Al Thornton, who tries to post Ariza out on the wing. Thornton attempts a couple of shot fakes, but he can’t work much here against Ariza…but he launches the contested shot anyway with :13 still on the clock.
After this stretch, the Clips actually get some good looks – wide open 3PAs, a couple of botched layups by TT. But, down double-digits, they press. And that’s never good.
Whatever his shortcomings defending the S/R, Camby’s defensive presence down low is paying dividends for the Clips. The Lakers shoot less than 39% from the field – and Camby is responsible for changing a bunch of those attempts – and blocking four others.
It’s doubtful the Clippers can stage the turnaround that Baron Davis’ GSW achieved after starting 0-6 last season. But the Clippers’ core is certainly capable of playing .500 ball in this league going forward – when healthy. That’s always the caveat.