The Clippers were shown yet again that basketball is a game of runs and droughts, this time suffering a 93-84 loss at the hands of the Mavericks. The inability to stop runs has been one of the themes of the young season, and the Clippers were hit again tonight with a Mavs 18-3 3rd quarter run and a 4th quarter drought marred by untimely turnovers and poor shot selection, resulting in a measly two points in the final seven minutes of play. Each game the Clippers seem to raise more questions than they answer, and tonight was no exception. Let’s take a look at some of the things that gave the Clippers trouble tonight.
- Marcus Camby starts off on Dirk tonight, which is about as good of a mismatch Dirk could hope for. Camby is indeed a former Defensive Player of the Year, but his true strength lies in his work off the ball, not on it. Camby is more than content to let his assignment shoot jumpers, and is notorious for hanging back in pick and roll situations. Dirk by no means abuses Camby tonight, but the Mavericks get some great looks by originating their offense through pick and roll action with Dirk. Truth be told, the damage could have been much worse in the first half, but Jason Terry was ice cold and Dirk was failed to knock down some shots he usually makes.
- Jason Kidd isn’t exactly quick anymore, but he nullifies a big part of the Clippers early season offense all by himself. Kidd completely shuts down both Eric Gordon and Baron’s post games tonight, simply by out muscling and out smarting the two Clippers down low. It takes away a large part of Baron’s game in particular, who struggled with 4-10 shooting from the field and 4 turnovers.
- Shawn Marion can still be a nightmare assignment for lots of forwards out there, particularly for ones that are used to relying on their superior athleticism like Al Thornton does. Al takes some miserable shots on his way to a 2-8 shooting performance, and gets 4 of his shots blocked in the first quarter. Al’s answered the bell with his rebounding so far this year (6 boards in 25 minutes tonight), but opposing defenses have caught on to his game and are more than happy to let him force bad looks off the dribble.
- To the Clippers credit, they recognize their big mismatch right from the get go. Dampier did a nice job on Kaman, but Chris was again true from about 18 feet, which helped him to score a career high 27 points on 12-19 shooting. Successful teams have a variety of different options they can utilize offensively, but tonight Kaman was the only player to really get it going.
- Young teams are prone to them, but at this point it’s practically a full-blown epidemic for this club. Coming in to this game, in 4th quarters the Clippers have averaged 5.3 turnovers, and tonight they register 6 turnovers in the final period. Simply put, this team is not good enough defensively to allow their opposition multiple extra possessions. The Clippers do a better job on the defensive glass tonight (only 9 OREB allowed), but some bad passing out of double teams and increased pressure in crunch time still does them in.
- Sebastian Telfair swiping at a 30 foot Jason Terry three-pointer at the end of the half was pretty stupid. Barking at the referees and earning a technical after the obvious foul was beyond pretty stupid; it was idiotic. Telfair practically gifted the Mavericks four points in a tight game, but worse yet killed all the momentum the Clippers had worked so hard to establish going into the half.
- A few critical moments down the stretch: At the 1:53 mark of the 4th quarter with the Clippers needing a bucket and 3 seconds left on the shot clock, the ball is inbounded to Kaman, who appears to be unaware of the situation and lets the shot clock expire. It’s a critical juncture in the game, and the possession goes completely wasted. This play, compounded with two offensive rebounds let up on the other end on the next possession, take the air completely out of the building and erase any hope of a Clippers comeback. The old theory that “bad teams find ways to lose games” is inching towards becoming applicable to this group.
- Dunleavy is struggling to find a consistent group of players he can rely on in the clutch. Tonight, he chose to ride the hot hands with Sebastian Telfair and Craig Smith. Telfair sparked the offense with some nice outside shooting (!) and playmaking, while Craig Smith proved once again that Dirk isn’t immune to smaller, athletic, physical defenders. Would the Clippers have been in the position to win the game without the 8-0 early fourth quarter run sparked by Telfair and Smith? Probably not. But it’s tough to sit on your hands through a 7-minute scoring drought when 22 million dollars of payroll in Baron Davis and Marcus Camby are riding the pine.
- DeAndre Jordan struggled mightily again tonight, and the numbers don’t lie: 2 minutes, 3 turnovers, -8 +/-. While it’s understandable that Dunleavy needs to win games first and foremost, he’s basically setting DeAndre up for failure. DeAndre knows he has zero room for error, and because of this he’s playing in constant fear of getting yanked from the game. There are very few players in the league who would succeed in the situations that Dunleavy is placing DeAndre or Kareem Rush in. DeAndre (2min) and Rush (4min) either need to be committed to with a proper amount of playing time and a spot in the rotation, or they need to be left out completely. Any and all confidence that DeAndre Jordan built up coming into this season is likely shot at this point.
- Baron Davis – zero minutes in the fourth quarter. Chris Kaman – 44 minutes overall. Winning is always the top priority, but some semblance of a rotation plan needs to be established. Right now, the plan appears to be “play whoever is performing at all costs,” which sounds nice in theory, but can’t be relied on over the stretch of an 82-game season.
Regardless of whether it’s early season rust, growing pains, a tough 4 games in 5 days against playoff caliber competition, or any other excuse readily available, it’s hard to deny the claim that the Clippers simply aren’t playing up to their talent level right now.
The Clippers will try again to get their first victory this Monday night at home against Minnesota.