Good basketball teams leverage their strengths against inferior opponents, and that’s exactly what the Clippers accomplish Friday night against Golden State.
Rather than try to match Don Nelson’s small-ball, the Clippers use their size, strength and the skills of Baron Davis to decimate the Warriors in the half-court. They also play a smart defensive game. With Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman guarding the basket, the Clippers lull the Warriors into a barrage of contested outside shots.
Neither Mikki Moore nor Anthony Randolph are equipped to deal with Chris Kaman, and the Clippers establish Chris on the block from the very outset of the game. Now that Chris has to be guarded at 18 feet, opposing defenses are getting stretched. That’s helping Baron Davis execute a crisp pick-and-roll game with Chris. Before Kaman established that mid-range jumper, defenses could trap and leave Kaman to his own devices after he popped. But now, Chris demands a much quicker rotation because he’s virtually automatic if unguarded from 15-18. This destabilizes the defense. Throw a shooter into the mix like Eric Gordon to whom Chris can kick the ball out of the post, and that complicates things for the defense even further.
Apart from a couple of long, off-the-dribble jumpers in the first quarter (both of which he nails), Baron’s shot chart is precisely what you’d want to see. That’s particularly true against a team like Golden State against whom Baron can exploit his size and strength in the post. He also attacks the paint off the dribble, taking full advantage of the Warriors’ anemic interior defense. Just as Kaman asserts himself against Moore, Baron establishes his physical superiority early over Monta Ellis.
The Clippers’ bigs host a block party, and when they aren’t swatting away Golden State’s shots, they’re providing weak side help. Because the Warriors don’t have any post threats, Camby and Kaman are free to rove away from the basket to help on the wings — so long as Ellis isn’t zipping down the lane. Both Camby and Kaman make judicious decisions all night and the Warriors’ explosive offense never has a chance to fuel up.
- Eric Gordon utilizes his advantage over Stephen Curry, but his big first half is largely the result of the Warriors’ atrocious defensive rotations and their unwillingness to chase Gordon around curls. EJ finishes with 25 points in 17 true shots (for a true shooting percentage of 68 percent).
- Putting away a team in the third quarter allows you to rest starters — especially important on the first night of a back-to-back — and offers opportunities to younger players at the back of the rotation. In that spirit, DeAndre Jordan’s fourth quarter might be among the more important stories of the game. Sebastian Telfair and Jordan hook up on a couple of pick-and-rolls and the results are frightening if you’re the game operations guy in charge of the baskets at Oracle Arena. Jordan, who’s had the yips since opening night, shows off the athleticism, instincts and touch that had everyone giddy about his prospects this season.
- Al Thornton is under the weather and relegated to reserve minutes.
By sticking with their program and refusing to bow to Nellieball, the Clippers capitalize on their superior size, skills and talent to control the game. This was the formula that prevailed in 2005-06, and it’s something the Clippers should take to heart.
Everyone loves to watch his team run, but when you’re presented with an opportunity to establish your strengths in a half-court game, you have to slow things down and let your personnel do what they do best. Watching Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon tease the Warriors’ defense with a deliberate two-man game (1st, 5:48; 1st, 1:30) is a revelation. With Eric’s outside shot and ability to put it on the floor and Kaman’s extended range, having the two of them on the ball side together in a slow-it-down set makes life very difficult to defenses that struggle in the half-court. The Clips would be crazy not to exploit that advantage with a more deliberate, execution-oriented offense.