Tonight, the Clippers convert points on only one of their first seven possessions. As analytic exercises go, documenting these fruitless offensive sets almost seems cruel. Here at Clipperblog, we’re gluttons for punishment:
- [1st, 11:25] The ball runs through Camby at the top of the circle. From the left wing, Al Thornton swings around a Brian Skinner brush screen that Marvin Williams has no trouble running over and, to make matters more difficult for Al, Zaza Pachulia doubles him off the Skinner roll because…why not? Skinner won’t hurt you from 18 feet. Al catches the ball at the foul line and rushes a jumper. Looking at the set again, I wonder if a little ball-fake might have gotten Pachulia to commit, leaving Thornton with an opportunity off the dribble. After a woeful first half, Al actually begins to think about that kind of stuff in the second half, when he single-handedly keeps the Clippers within striking distance. The jumper is no good, and his form looks awful — elevating awkwardly off his left, both legs split as he shoots. Clippers 0-1
- [1st, 10:50] Again, the ball goes into Camby just to the right of the top of the circle. Skinner flashes up with the help of a down screen by Eric Gordon. It holds Zaza up for a second, but he closes as Skinner ups a little ball-fake. Zaza doesn’t bite. With :12 on the shot clock, Skinner fires a contested 17-foot jump shot. No good. Clippers 0-2. Again, as offensively outmatched as the Clippers are, they choose to have their least talented offensive player take a bad, contested shot.
- [1st, 10:20] By the time Mardy Collins finally stops dribbling the ball and hands it off along the arc to EJ, there are only :12 seconds left on the shot clock. Eric feeds Thornton with his back to the basket five feet off the paint against the smaller Joe Johnson — a mismatch Thornton picks up courtesy of a nice Mardy Collins cross-screen along the baseline. Jab step, another little one, then Al dribbles left to get himself some space for a 15-foot jumper. Al’s jumper is not his highest-percentage shot, but over the shorter Johnson, it makes sense…except that he airballs it. So: Not a horrible shot. But a horrible shot. Clippers 0-3
- [1st, 9:44] It’s :15 before the bigs find Collins at the top of the arc, and :11 before Collins dishes it off the EJ to his right. So again the Clippers — who have enough trouble working themselves decent shots in the halfcourt — make life harder for themselves by devoting more than half of their possession to clearing their throats. EJ catches, shoots…and misses. Mardy Camby collects the rebound on the right side of the glass. He then falls away for a strange-looking jumper that rattles in and out. Clippers 0-5
- [1st, 9:07] Mardy Collins goes one-on-one against Mike Bibby from the left side. Collins drives to his left, gets to the cup, but can’t finish. Clippers 0-6
- [1st, 8:37] Gordon starts the possession with the ball. He gets a nice screen up top from Camby. EJ gets Josh Smith on the switch. Smith is a terrific defender who can guard almost every position on the floor with his length, lateral quickness, and athleticism. But EJ handles him — a crossover, hesitation, quick first step, another change of speed, then an explosive burst forward to the rim. Like a smart jazz riff. Clippers 1-7
- [1st, 7:50] After Zaza fouls Skinner in the post, the Clippers take it out of bounds. Once again, they work off the ball to get the Thornton-Johnson mismatch. Before leveling any criticism, let me congratulate the Clippers for even trying, in earnest, to find anything that might give them an offensive advantage. After this past week, that’s a miracle unto itself. The choice of Thornton and Johnson is curious. Not saying it’s bad…just interesting. Thornton has his back to Johnson about a foot off the paint in the high post. It’s :04 before Al makes his move. Unfortunately, Al chooses to go left — right into the teeth of the help defense [Marvin Williams]. Baseline might have been the easier route. Thornton spins away from the hoop and launches another airball. Clippers 1-8
- [1st, 7:28] The ball works its way over to Mardy Collins the right corner. This is odd, because there’s very little Mardy Collins can do against Joe Johnson from that position on the court. In fact, there’s very little Collins can do against Betsey Johnson from the right corner. Collins dribbles back up top, then swings a cross-court pass to Eric Gordon on the weak side. There’s good news: That pass draws Johnson over to the ball side, leaving Collins wide open at the top of the arc. Gordon returns the ball to Collins, who pulls up for a wide, wide, wide open jumper at the top of the circle, that’s well short. Clippers 1-9
Al Thornton makes 9 FGs tonight — 8 of them dunks and layups, the other one an 11-foot leaner over Josh Smith. He also earns nine FTAs — every single one of them the result of a drive or attempted layup.
- Al Thornton Jump Shots (8 possessions): 2 points or 0.25 PPP
- Al Thornton Finishing at the Rim…or attempting to (12 possessions): 23 points or 1.92 PPP
Mike Dunleavy opts to play Thornton on Marvin Williams, and assigns Camby to Josh Smith. One of the curiosities of tonight’s game is seeing Marcus Camby play a little perimeter defense on Josh Smith. It’s fairly late in the game, with the Hawks comfortably ahead [4th, 1:55]. The ball goes over to Josh Smith out on the left wing. Camby challenges him on the perimeter. Smith wants to go left/baseline, takes a hard dribble, but pulls backs as Camby nimbly slides over to cut him off. Smith backs out and tries to go right, but Camby stays between him and the rim. Smith tries to elevate over Camby with a sweeping, right-handed hook, but Marcus swats it away.
Back when it appeared as if the Clippers could conceivably field a big lineup of Kaman-Randolph-Camby, I scoffed at the idea that Camby could guard athletic wings on the perimeter. But after watching him tonight, I’d be far more comfortable with it — though that assumes the Clippers’ frontcourt will ever simultaneously be healthy enough to play together.