If Memphis plays at 45 rpm, then Minnesota is a 33. The Wolves are a glacially slow team, and that allows the Clippers defense to gain some footing. Al Jefferson gets his points — 28 on 13-22 shooting from the floor — but the Clippers’ smalls do a solid job on the perimeter, and Marcus Camby takes care of the weak side. He blocks seven shots on the evening. A sampling of how Marcus operates as the sheriff down low defensively:
- [1st, 5:26] Camby is assigned to Jefferson, who comes out to the perimeter to set a high screen for Randy Foye. Here, Camby actually steps out on Foye…though not well. Foye beats the Clipper double-team, turns the corner, as Jefferson rolls unfettered to the hole. After Jefferson receives the ball from Foye in the paint, he hesitates unnecessarily. This allows Camby to catch up to the play. As Jefferson elevates weakly for the layup, Camby swoops in and swats the ball away.
- [1st, 3:39] Rashad McCants holds the ball on the left wing in isolation against Baron Davis. McCants has never been able to achieve the perimeter prowess he demonstrated at Carolina, but here he breaks down Baron, and drives baseline with his left. Camby leaves Jefferson to step out on McCants, causing McCants to skirt the baseline and try a reverse layup. He traps himself under the hoop and Camby stuffs the awkward attempt. It’s worth noting here that Al Thornton does a good job rotating onto Jefferson. It requires his leaving Ryan Gomes alone in the corner, but when you have Camby’s length smothering the ballhandler underneath the basket, that corner threat is attenuated against everyone in the league not named Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and possibly Jose Calderson and a healthy T.J. Ford. So Bravo.
- [1st, 0:49] The Clippers handle the vaunted Rodney Carney-Craig Smith S/R. The ball ends up in a scrum underneath the basket. Kevin Love’s tip-in attempt is rejected by Camby, though the Clippers should be faulted for even allowing Love to beat them on the glass 1-on-3.
- [3rd, 9:41] You know that popular view that Marcus Camby can help extenuate his teammates’ crappy defense? This is a perfect illustration. The Wolves get the ball into Kevin Love on the right block against Zach Randolph. He spins baseline, blows past Randolph, who barely moves his feet. Fortunately, Camby drops low and swats away Love’s reverse layup attempt. Love recovers the ball, regroups from the left side, now faced up against Camby. Love puts the ball on the floor with his left, drives baseline, but again has his attempted reverse layup rejected by Camby. Two blocks in about five seconds for Marcus.
- [3rd, 2:15] Ryan Gomes is isolated up top against Mardy Collins. Gomes runs a simple give-and-go with Al Jefferson, who is guarded by Camby down on the left block. After Jefferson receives the ball, he hands it off on the baseline side. Camby plays this beautifully. He sniffs out the set so quickly that by the time Gomes takes his first step, Camby has already slipped off Jefferson. He has Gomes squished against the baseline. Gomes tries desperately to throw up a layup — at this point a foul call is his only salvation — but Camby will have none if it. Another rejection.
- [4th, 6:11] Minnesota moves early here. Jefferson gets the ball at the top of the arc. He wants to drive against Camby. In general, this isn’t a bad decision by Jefferson. Camby is least dangerous faced-up against his defender in an open set. But not this time. Jefferson is simply too slow. As he drives left, Camby stays between him and the basket. Jefferson goes up for a right-handed runner from the left side, but Camby blocks the shot. The ball ends up in Baron’s hands.
Offensively, the Clippers play a very basic, but fluent, game. I like that Gordon opens a good number of the first quarter sets with the ball in his hands. Baron Davis working off the ball at the outset of a possession can be a useful tool. Given his range, Baron has the ability to help the Clips spread the floor on the weak side, thereby creating more room for Randolph to work in the post. Baron’s also a terrific spot-up shooter. There’s a very pretty set at [2nd, 2:42] where Gordon brings the ball up, with Baron setting up on the weak side perimeter. The ball goes into Thornton on the near sideline. Thornton does a nice job here recognizing Kevin Ollie cheating off Baron. Thornton darts a skip pass across the court to Baron, who hits the open 3PA.
Earlier in the period [2nd, 11:34], there’s a perfect simple UCLA cut with Paul Davis as the pick man and Collins as the passer. After Baron delivers the ball to Collins on the wing, he cuts past the Paul Davis pick into the paint, where Collins lobs him the pass. Easy layup for Baron. Oldest play in the book, and the Clippers nail it with precision. The moral of the story? Baron Davis can do as much for you off the ball as he can as the point. Meanwhile, you make use of your bench people who have limited skill sets: Mardy Collins might set a record for highest percentage of shot attempts blocked, but the guy can pass the basketball…so let him. Paul Davis knows how to set an effective screen out on the perimeter…so let him.
Side note: Did the producers of the “25 Years in LA” segment actually cite Stanley Roberts as the 2nd best center in Clipper history? [!]