For the most part, this current Clippers squad has looked like a generally improved team thus far, but tonight’s poor performance evoked some horrible memories of the disaster that was last season. The formula built by last season’s Clippers on how to lose is followed perfectly tonight.
- Was there poor rebounding? Check. Last year, the Clippers finished 27th in total rebounding differential. Tonight, the Clippers lose the battle 51-36 for a -15 differential. The overwhelming difference on the glass is inexcusable, particularly on the defensive end where the Clippers allow an incredible 19 offensive rebounds. Even more incredible is that the Clippers weren’t outsized tonight at all – they enjoyed a size advantage at nearly every position. Unfortunately this didn’t mean anything, as the Clippers let themselves get outworked by a scrappier team tonight.
- Are random role players going off for big scoring nights? Check. The Anthony Marrow’s of the world destroyed the Clippers last year for career games. Tonight, Devin Brown hits the Clippers for 16, and Marcus Thornton and Bobby Brown each chip in 12, well over their season averages. All night the Clippers perimeter defenders are either slow on closeouts or allow too much space for the young New Orleans wing players to get their shots off.
- Is Baron Davis chucking up bad shots? Check. Baron was terrible shooting the ball last year at 37% from the field and 30% from deep. Baron seemed to be on the road to recovery by distributing more and shooting less, and then tonight happened. Baron threw up a team high 21 shots tonight, with 12 of those 21 coming from three point land. Again, this type of performance is absolutely inexcusable, and Baron’s bad shot selection killed the Clippers down the stretch. Everyone in the arena except for Baron realized he wasn’t a threat from outside tonight. The Clippers essentially have no chance to win when Baron reverts back to the shot happy, poor decision making version of himself that he was last year.
- Was the offense predictable? Check. Last season, the Clippers offense was predicated around Randolph post ups and the occasional set for Gordon. While it’s understandable that Dunleavy wants to get the ball in the hands of his scorers on the block, tonight it felt like overkill. Too many post entry passes were forced, which led to many of the team’s 16 turnovers. There didn’t seem to be a ton of pick and roll being ran, and outside of the few plays designed for Novak there wasn’t a big enough emphasis on setting off ball screens to free up shooters. The Hornets caught on pretty quick to the Clippers gameplan and successfully collapsed on post players all night. Yes, Dunleavy has limited options available offensively right now, but the offense felt like it was pounding it’s collective head against the wall at times. I’m not sure you can win when the shot distribution leans so heavily on three players; Baron had 21 attempts, Kaman had 18, and Thornton had 17. The rest of the team combined for only 26 field goal attempts. To the Clippers credit, the team did shoot 47% from the field, which should have been good enough for the team to win. This was the 8th game in 12 tries where the Clippers have out shot their opponent from the field, and despite being 8th in the league in field goal percentage, the Clippers are 4-8.
- Did the team look lackadaisical? Check. The Clippers coasted through many a game last year, and they did it again tonight in New Orleans. The team seemingly carried the mentality that they were the favorite, and in result of that had no sense of urgency despite the Hornets pasting them by 28 just a few short weeks ago. The lack of respect given to the Hornets outside shooters combined with the lazy effort on the boards did the Clippers in tonight. Effort is the key component in playing good defense and rebounding well, and tonight the Clippers were just plain bad in those categories. The blame for this poor effort falls equally on the players and the coaching staff.
The Clippers wasted an amazingly efficient offensive effort from Al Thornton tonight, who finished 12-17 for a game high 30 points. Al has seemingly figured it out on the offensive end, and while the transformation is nowhere near complete, it’s safe to say it’s starting. Al took only two shots from outside 18 feet tonight and was dominant around the rim.
Kareem Rush left the game with a knee injury, and the return on his status is not favorable. Rush has a torn ACL, and will be out for the rest of the season. It’s a tough break for Rush, who showed he was capable of contributing with his performance on Monday against Oklahoma City.
The Clippers will look to rebound tomorrow night in Memphis at 5pm PT.