I’m neither a physicist nor a statistician, but I’m inclined to believe that if you randomly assembled a basketball team from the nation’s leading Yeshiva academies, it would — by sheer chance — collect more than three offensive rebounds in 34 opportunities against the mighty Grizzly frontcourt rotation of Darko Milicic, rookie Darrell Arthur, Marc Gasol, and Hakim Warrick. The Clippers can’t accomplish that Friday night in Memphis. In 83 minutes, their starting forwards combine for eight total rebounds…and nine turnovers. In 82 minutes, their starting backcourt combines for a single rebound.
These data don’t suggest a team that is, in the words of the Clippers’ broadcast team, “getting better.” Rather, this game attests to a team wallowing in debilitating self-pity. Clipper fans have been under the impression that while this current incarnation of the club would be less likable than the lunchbucket squads of recent seasons, the team would produce a better on-court product. A collection of veterans like Baron Davis, Zach Randolph, and Marcus Camby is supposed to provide a baseline of respectability. The talent will make the Clippers competitive every night; they’ll be in every game; etc.
The Clippers play another horrendous defensive game. They give up 20 uncontested shots. They allow a slew of early jumpers to Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo. They apply no semblance of pressure on the Memphis point guards, and allow 5′ 11″ Kyle Lowry more comfort on both ends than a player of his size and caliber should ever get. Watch the team defense on any broken Memphis set, and you’ll see a pitiful Clipper response (i.e. Hakim Warrick left alone on the baseline [2nd, 5:18]). Though the Clippers initially defend the S/R effectively with a double-team on the ballhandler — they deny the Grizzlies points the first six such instances — the traps become lazy and ineffectual in the second half. Off the ball, the Clippers are outright clueless on the defensive end, Camby [for the most part] excepted. If Baron Davis continues to apply as little care defensively as Zach Randolph does, there isn’t going to be a team in the league that won’t be able to score and rebound against the Clippers at will.
Keep in mind that none of the four teams the Clippers face on the current road trip rank higher than 15th in offensive efficiency, yet each has found easy ways to score against a Clipper defense that is confused and, let’s face it, lazy. The guys who, theoretically, would like to defend don’t have the acuity or experience to do so. The guys who have the smarts and ability to defend simply won’t.