Basketball games that feature the Golden State Warriors tend to produce some counter-intuitive data, which makes sense because Don Nelson is a prophet of counter-intuition. He’ll assign 6′ 10″ Anthony Randolph to guard the ball. He’ll put Corey Maggette on the Clippers’ best perimeter shooter. Tonight, Nelson’s forwards accumulate more assists than his guards [it's not all Stephen Jackson either].
The numbers on the Clippers’ side of the ledger are a little strange. Eric Gordon and Al Thornton combine to miss 15 shots in the paint. That goes a long way toward explaining the Clippers’ woeful 94.0 offensive efficiency number tonight against one of the league’s most permissive defenses. Things begin auspiciously for the Clips, as they jump out to an 11-4 lead four minutes in. But in the quarter’s remaining 17 possessions, the Clippers score only five points and turn the ball over five times. In addition, Eric Gordon misses two layups, Thornton misses one, and DeAndre Jordan blows a dunk.
Jordan has some horrible tendencies, which you might expect from a 20-year-old rookie who spent most of his one year at college coming off the bench. The most painful Jordanism to watch is his habit of trying to throw down every potential dunk with spectacular force when an easy two-handed jam would do fine. Jordan’s hijinks are particularly cringe-inducing when he tries to do this eight feet from the basket standing still. It’s like a ten year old at a pool table trying to hit a cue ball in the open field without the aid of a granny stick.
Jordan also needs some work defending the high screen and roll. There’s a set at [2nd, 3:00] that’s particularly frustrating because the Clippers play good halfcourt defense for about twenty seconds. The Warriors bring the ball up deliberately, then gradually get into a 1-4 with Monta Ellis at point. There’s some cross-chatter on the Golden State side, as they uncharacteristically struggle to figure out what they’re going to run. With about :09 left on the shot clock, Ronny Turiaf finally moves high to receive the pass from Ellis. Anthony Morrow also slides out to the perimeter, as the action shifts to the far side of the court. Turiaf dishes it over to Morrow at about :06, so the Warriors do the only thing they really can at this post — a high S/R with Morrow and Turiaf. Morrow’s defender is Ricky Davis, while Turiaf is covered by Jordan. Turiaf, who sets as good a screen as anyone in the game, lays a brick wall on Ricky Davis. Morrow is playing pro ball this year because he can do one thing exceeding well — shoot a 20-footer off the dribble. Yet instead of challenging Morrow when Davis gets caught on the Turiaf screen, Jordan lays back in the paint. As Mike Smith chirps on air, Jordan inexplicably never steps out to show on the screen. Morrow, who normally must fight to get himself the look he needs to launch his pretty shot, gets all the time and space he needs to drain a jumper at the top of the circle.
Whatever Jordan lacks in grace on the S/R, he makes up for on the glass. The Clippers win the proportional rebounding battle tonight [74.4 DRR/28.3 ORR], and Jordan is a big part of that. He finishes with 20 total rebounds, seven on the offensive glass. When we say a big man has “a nose for the ball,” that often just means that he has the good timing and quickness, which is the case with Jordan.
Al Thornton’s line tonight doesn’t look like much, but he suffers the misfortune of having to launch a couple of impossible jumpers with the 24-second clock expiring, and gets the benefit of few calls. By and large, his shot selection tonight shows discipline, though neither he nor his team is rewarded for it. If Thornton can maintain this general distribution over the second half of the season, he could help the Clippers greatly.