Statistics are still an emerging science in basketball. Several new systems have been introduced in recent seasons to measure a player’s offensive and defensive value. Now that we have this interwebby thing, we can do cool stuff like sort by offense, defense, this metric, that metric. What’s interesting about the Los Angeles Clippers is that when you start playing around with these numbers, Marcus Camby invariably appears at the top of any list. Which Clipper tops Hollinger’s PER rankings? Marcus Camby. What about the Roland Rating, which measures how the Clips perform when a player is on the court vs. when he’s off the court? Marcus Camby. Offensive Win Shares? Camby. Defensive Win Shares? Camby. Exotic Asian Character Tattoos which may or may not mean anything? Camby.
The death of Camby’s father means that the Clippers are without their most statistically useful player Monday night against an angry, cagey team whose two most potent offensive weapons operate down on the block. The Clippers are forced to start Brian Skinner at C. The results are disastrous from the outset, as we can see from the first few Toronto possessions:
- The Raptors immediately go into Bosh on the right block. Bosh breezes by Brian Skinner with his patented left handed dribble-drive. The Clips catch a break when Bosh misses the bunny.
- This time, it’s Jermaine O’Neal on the right block. He backs in Zach Randolph with ease. Once he’s in the paint, he pivots with his right, elevates, and hits an easy 8-footer over Randolph, who never actually challenges the shot.
- After the Raptors collect the miss off of Jose Calderon’s open PUJIT, collect another rebound off a Kapono miss, they wisely hand it off to Bosh underneath. He goes up, gets fouled, and hits both FTs. On the first two possessions, the Clippers miss Camby in the interior; here, they miss his rebounding.
- Right back to Bosh, this time a little farther out at the right elbow. Bosh’s ballfake gets Brian Skinner in the air. Bosh pulls a Cassell, and goes to the line where he drains both FTs.
Toronto’s interior attack continues like this for the entire first quarter. The next 11 Raptor points all come from shots inside of 10 feet, including an embarrassingly simple layup from Calderon off a high S/R that never would’ve seen the light of day had Camby been patrolling the paint.
Bright spots? Eric Gordon continues to attack the rim, and takes only one truly bad shot — a contested 20-footer early in the shot clock at [1st, 7:05]. As a rookie, he’s not yet getting the calls around the basket on every finish [2nd, 0:42], but that will come with time.
DeAndre Jordan sees 29 minutes of action. He finishes with eight points, eight boards, and three blocks while staying out of foul trouble and turning the ball over only once. The Raptors test him on seemingly every possession and Jordan buckles down and gives it his best. Give him this — he’s more effective than Skinner, but by the fourth quarter, he’s part of the roadkill in Chris Bosh’s tracks. Bosh is playing a different game underneath tonight. His footwork is balletic; his command of his shot is near-perfect. When the Clippers assault him, he gladly takes his FTAs and pads the Raptor lead. There’s a gorgeous play at [4th, 7:48] when Bosh gets the ball off the low right post. He faces up in triple threat position one-on-one against the 20-year-old Jordan. Bosh takes a single dribble with his left along the baseline, then pivots right. When his little upfake gets Jordan in the air, he goes underneath Jodran, banks the layup off the window, and draws the foul. I realize Bosh’s powerslam from the first quarter makes all the dunkporn reels this morning. But there are 75 players in the league who beat their guy off the dribble and throw down a jam. But there aren’t a dozen guys who can do what Bosh does here in the post.
Toronto is the league’s most confounding team. On paper, they have everything you’d want in a winner: Two complete post players, a dynamic point guard, a deadly perimeter shooter to spread the floor, a solid wing defender, and an athletic rebounder. Depth is a problem, as is Andrea Bargnani’s dwindling prospects. But Toronto’s starting unit should be cruising through the bulk of its schedule, and they shouldn’t be in the Atlantic Division cellar or losing to a team like Oklahoma City.