CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While it’s always frustrating when a game isn’t televised in Los Angeles, rest assured that those of you without League Pass missed one of the least telegenic games of the season.
Those low double-teams that fueled the Clippers’ ball movement in Atlanta on Saturday are entirely absent tonight, as Larry Brown employs a more stay-at-home brand of defense (with some exceptions when the help is cheap). The Clippers’ shooters have trouble finding open space both high and low, and their offense stagnates as a result.
Zach Randolph doesn’t have a bad offensive night — though his 2-7 performance from the line costs the Clips. Too often, though, he settles for fadeaways over Emeka Okafor, rather than brutalizing the Bobcats’ lanky big man, something he does successfully on a couple of occasions, but gets away from. At [3rd, 9:58], Zach launches a 29-footer for the sheer hell of it.
The game spirals away from the Clippers at [4th, 9:42] when they fall behind by nine. A four-possession series begins promising enough when the Clippers isolate Ricky Davis on the right side against Vladimir Radmanovic [4th, 10:33]. Davis destroys the Cats’ new acquisition off the dribble, gliding past Vlad for an easy layup. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill after that. Radmanovic makes Davis pay on the very next Bobcat possession, when Ricky cheats off him unnecessarily in the corner. The ball finds its way to Vlad, who drains the 3PA with Ricky late to close. The next trip down, Ricky gets another opportunity against Vlad, the man he just embarrassed one-on-one. What does Ricky do? Without hesitation, Ricky foists a 20-footer over the 6′ 10″ Radmanovic, an absolute brick. A few seconds later on the other end, the Clips unfurl the welcome mat in the paint for Raymond Felton, who misses his layup, but fights off Fred Jones and the Clippers bigs to tip in his own miss. Timeout Clippers.
The Clips leave the back door open all night for Charlotte, and Boris Diaw sneaks the ball inside with beautiful passes to the Bobcats’ big men on hard cuts. Diaw finishes with nine assists — eight of them to DeSagana Diop, Okafor, and Radmanovic. Despite the pattern, the Clippers’ defense never makes an adjustment. “Our guys who were supposed to be sinking and filling had a tough time,” Dunleavy says. All night, the Clippers’ help side defenders were slow to pick up the cutters. At times, Diaw initiates the action off the dribble. “We didn’t do a good job of taking his right hand away. He’s a dominant right-handed driver.” Al Thornton is the victim at [1st, 7:00] when Diaw suckers him with a ball-fake along the baseline. Thornton bites to Diaw’s left, which allows Diaw to drive baseline with his right. On this occasion, the help is there [Camby], but Camby’s rotation leaves Okafor wide open underneath. Diaw finds him for one of his nine assists.
Tonight’s game presents an interesting opportunity for Eric Gordon to learn on the job. The Bobcats assign their tiny PG, D.J. Augustin to guard Eric. Augustin gives up about 50 pounds and five inches to Gordon. It’s rare that Gordon draws a midget as his primary defender, and though it’s not his natural inclination to have his back to the basket, Gordon gives it a go. There’s a particularly fine play at [3rd, 4:38] when Eric sets up deep on the low right block against Augustin. Camby, at the top of the arc, immediately feeds EJ, who muscles over Augustin for a layup, and the foul. “He’s a lot shorter and a lot smaller than me, so I had to take advantage,” Gordon says after the game. EJ didn’t post up much at Indiana, so it’s a relatively unrefined part of his game. “This is more of an individual game,” he says referring to the NBA. “It would be better for me to try to use the post-up game to open up my game a little bit more.” Eric’s body and strength lend him an ability to exploit defenders in the post, and he’d be smart to cultivate that as part of his repertoire.
Once upon a time Baron Davis posted up opposing guards, but tonight he doesn’t do much of anything. He finishes 1-7 from the field and actually airballs an uncontested 3PA [2nd, 9:11]. Only two of his seven attempts originate from inside 19 feet, and he never really looks to attack the 6′ 1″ Felton at the elbow, a place Davis has traditionally had success. Instead, it’s another barrage of ill-advised, ill-timed, ill-fated jumpers — enough to make anyone with a premium NBA package or a seat at Charlotte Bobcats Arena ill.