You want the good news first?
The retooled Clippers are showing themselves to be a reasonably effective offensive squad. They’re working themselves a lot of high-percentage shots inside of 15 feet, even against a good interior defensive team like Houston. You see it at the outset of the 2nd quarter [11:23] with the solid pin-down action for Zach Randolph along the right baseline. By the time Chuck Hayes recovers, Randolph is launching an easy 8-footer. Al Thornton shoots 11-20 from the floor, and goes berserk in the third quarter. He delivers a devastating first step against Ron Artest, blows past him with an explosive left-handed baseline drive [3rd, 0:47.3], ultimately banking in a layup off the glass on his way down…and draws the foul. Al has also emerged as the team’s best finisher in transition.
Unfortunately — and this is a team-wide affliction — Al earns only 3 FTAs to accompany his 20 FGAs. Randolph attempts only five. In 96 minutes, the Clippers’ four guards combine for two FTAs. The Clippers are 28th in the league in FTA/game, and 29th in FT percentage. This is a problem that can be mitigated with extra shots generated from the offensive glass, but the Clippers aren’t helping themselves there, either: Their ORR is only 26.3, better than it’s been, but still not good enough.
Defensively, the Clippers are a mess. It’s as bad as anything we’ve seen during the Dunleavy era and, truthfully, since Brand’s arrival in 2001. Can some of the ill effects be attributed to a lack of familiarity with one another? Absolutely. But the overriding issues are more basic: The Clippers are a collection of mediocre-to-lousy individual defenders which, though it sounds fatal, can actually be overcome with help. But the Clippers help defense is staggered, sloppy, and illogical. If you’re Baron Davis, you don’t need to leave Rafer Alston to double Ron Artest [3rd, 10:47], particualrly since [a] Thornton is actually getting the job done. [b] There are two additional interior defenders between Artest and the rim. And even if you’re Baron Davis and you reason that Artest is working himself an unconscionably simple shot, you have to see that Artest’s easiest pass out of the double-team is to your guy, Alston, and that there’s absoultely no Clipper in close proximity to rotate onto Alston if Artest indeed chooses to pass out.
Baron Davis shouldn’t be singled out — the video is littered with segments like this perpetrated by every starter — but if you want to understand how a team gives up 46 3PAs in 27 hours, this gives you an idea.