So this is what it should look like: A half-court-oriented team that uses its size/ability to control the post, as well as its PG’s talent off the dribble to force opponents to over-commit in the paint. On good nights when the matchups are favorable, the Clips will be able to score a good number of their points on post sets or with Baron’s ability to create. But when they can’t work good enough stuff on the block, and when Baron is smothered, this strategy should open up good shots from about 15 feet [or beyond] – provided the PG can find him [Davis almost always can], or the post player can kick it out [work in progress, but coming along]. The Clippers now have a bunch of guys who can nail that shot at various distances with a decent degree of consistency – all of the starters on down to Brian Skinner and Paul Davis. Needless to say, this is a completely different formula than seasons’ past.
Today is the kind of game that probably gets away from the Clips ten days ago. They maintain tenuous control for most of the game, yet can never quite pull away. Dallas ties the game at 79 with a Jason Terry jumper. With a unit composed of Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Paul Davis, and Marcus Camby, the Clippers go on a 13-0 run:
- [4th, 8:10] Dirk is on the bench. With Dallas on an 8-0 run, and the Clippers coming off three straight turnovers, the Clips are a little tight. The spacing is lousy. They can’t quite work a quality S/R on the right wing for Baron with either Camby or Thornton. They reverse the ball over to the weak side — Eric Gordon and Paul Davis. P. Davis sets the screen on Jason Terry for EJ, who drives right past Brandon Bass, whom he inherited on the switch, along the baseline. Diop drops down off Camby to collapse on EJ. EJ then hooks a zippy pass to P. Davis who’s under the basket. Davis goes up, but is hacked. He heads to the line where he sinks both.Eric Gordon isn’t a black hole. He’s not a natural point, but he’s not devoid of the ability to create for others. [Clippers 81, Dallas 79]
- This stretch is marked by some solid defense from the Clippers. Thornton is making better reads. Gordon can defend the ball. Baron is solid. P. Davis is smart. Camby is Camby. He doesn’t get hung out tonight, though Dirk gets his points. On this set, Terry comes around two screens and Baron stays with him the whole way. Terry receives the ball but with Baron on him, he has nowhere to go — so he sends the ball back to Kidd to reset. The Mavs try a S/R for Stackhouse out on the right perimeter with Diop. Al and P. Davis trap Stackhouse well. Camby moves up to take Diop, then Gordon moves down to the block to pick up Bass.We have a professional defensive rotation before us.With :04 on the shot clock, Dallas settles for a contested, off-balanced Stackhouse J from 19 feet. The ball caroms off the rim out of bounds.
- Two-man game with Davises, Baron and Paul. The first S/R doesn’t yield anything for Baron, as Kidd is able to press him against the sideline. No worries, let’s try it again. This time, Kidd and Bass trap Baron, but he’s able to lob it into P. Davis way down low on the block. It’s worth noting here that Paul Davis looks like a guy who’s been executing the S/R with Baron Davis his whole life. He’s confident, is able to land exactly where he wants to on the block. He’s immediately doubled [Diop and Bass]. But out of the corner of his eye, Paul spots Camby alone on the weak side. Camby dives to the hoop and Davis looks like John Elway heaving a pass against a rush to the cutting Camby. Stellar [Clippers 83, Dallas 79]
- The Clips are really defending the S/R well. A Terry/Diop sequence yields nada. So Terry hits Bass off the left block. Bass elevates for a 15-footer with Paul Davis’ hand in his face. Not close. Camby skies for the rebound.
- Early here. Paul Davis sets a very high screen for Baron along the left-side perimeters. This allows Baron to drive the left sideline. Bass gives up on Baron as Baron heads to the left corner. All alone, he launches a 3PA that falls. Timeout Dallas. [Clippers 86, Dallas 79]
- As Dallas works it around the arc, Nowitzki barrels over Baron Davis trying to cut beneath the hoop. Offensive foul.
- Baron and Paul Davis really have the two-man game working on the left side of the floor. Another S/R, another trap on Baron, another lob to Paul Davis at about 15. This time, Paul puts it on the floor. Nowitzki is defending him. Paul dribbles with his right, spins baseline, steps back and takes an awkward, off-balanced jumper that doesn’t fall. This is the only possession on the spurt where the Clips don’t convert.
- Kidd pushes it ahead off the miss to Bass, who drives down the left side, but misses the 5-footer in traffic. The ball dribbles out-of-bounds, but stays with Dallas. They get it to Dirk at the left elbow against Camby. Dirk rocks a couple of times, pump-fakes, but Camby doesn’t bite. Finally, he puts it on the floor, drives left, pulls up and kicks it back to Terry way up top. Terry drives, then kicks it to Dirk who has returned to his spot at 18 feet, a few steps off the elbow. His jumper is no good. Camby grabs the rebound and launches a perfect outlet pass that Al Thornton catches at the top of the circle on the other end. Al drives in for the easy layup. Great passing day for the Clipper big men. [Clippers 88, Dallas 79]
- The new Mavericks push it up quickly. Terry takes it himself, but ends up tossing a weird-looking circus shot defended tightly by Baron Davis. I guess he wanted the foul, but there’s no contact. Camby comes down with another rebound. He finishes the game with 14 in 31 minutes.
- The Clippers aren’t wasting any time getting set and the Mavericks are disoriented defensively in transition. Al is running up the left side. Baron gets it over to him. He’s got a clear lane to the rim from the wing. As he goes up, Jason Kidd assaults him about the head. Fragrant foul. Thornton sinks both FTs. [Clippers 90, Dallas 79]
- Clippers retain possession. Guess what? Davis-Davis S/R on the left wing. On the trap, Kidd slams into Baron. The Clips are in the penalty. Baron sinks both [Clippers 92, Dallas 79]
Eric Gordon partisans get their wish: The rookie out of Indiana plays 30 minutes. He goes 4-8 from the field, including 3-4 from the arc. His quick hands pick Dallas’ pockets twice and he plays super on-ball defense against Kidd. After the game, Mike Dunleavy addresses Gordon’s timeline. “[Gordon] needed to learn our coverages…so we had to kind of work our way in with him and get his feet wet…We’ve liked him all along. When a rookie comes into the league, it’s hard for them to know the calls and different sets right away. He’s studying.”
Chris Kaman draws a tough matchup today in Erick Dampier. Chris coughs up the ball four times, but he doesn’t take any ill-advised shots. He finishes 4-6 from the floor with an additional trip to the line. He makes a gorgeous baseline pass out of a double-team that finds Al Thornton alone for an open 19-footer that Davis nails [3rd, 9:36], and another effective, though less spectacular, kick out of the double-team in the 1st that finds Ricky Davis beyond the arc for a 3PM [1st, 6:09]. So that’s five points off nice passes out of the double-team for Chirs — passes he doesn’t make with proficiency earlier in his career.
There’s a danger in getting too amped up about a single victory, but if nothing else, the Clippers are capable of producing some very watchable basketball — which has been the case even in most of their losses.