What do Earl Watson, Dahntay Jones, Tyler Hansbrough, Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster all have in common? They all love to beat the hell out of their opponents. Troy Murphy was the best defensive rebounder in the entire league last year. Dahntay Jones plays the type of defense that could make a previously partial viewer absolutely loathe him. Earl Watson is one of the most underrated perimeter defenders in the game. Tyler Hansbrough made an entire collegiate career out of finding dogs overpowering people down low. Jeff Foster just may be the dirtiest player in the NBA. The idea is, these guys aren’t going to run by you and they’re not going to shoot the lights out, but they will lure you into a drag out, nasty, ugly affair. Without Granger, playing that type of game was the best chance the Pacers had at winning, and the Clippers allowed themselves to get caught up in the mud.
This was by far the Clippers worst offensive performance to date and the box score numbers are not for the weak stomached. The team went 29 for 90 from the field, which totals out to an unbelievably bad 32.2%. In addition to shooting poorly, the Clippers only managed to get to the line 14 times against an incredibly physical opponent in Indiana who did not shy away from contact. Kaman struggled with his jumper for the second night in a row and finished 3 for 19 from the field, while Al Thornton cooled way down with a 2 for 15 performance. That’s a combined 5 for 34 outing from two of the Clippers primary scorers.
Surprisingly though, most of those 34 combined looks were good ones. This was not a case of Al Thornton reverting back to his inefficient ways and chucking up contested deep jumpers. Instead, this was just Al missing multiple chances from point blank range. Dahntay Jones did such a great job banging with Al in the post that when Al was finally able to free himself from Jones, he often hurriedly and excitedly put up an off balanced attempt. Some of these misses can probably be attributed to Roy Hibbert’s presence as well – Hibbert may have “only” blocked 3 shots, but he altered another handful as well. Despite the terrible totals, getting Al Thornton looks near the rim is pretty high on the list of desirable scenarios for the Clippers offense. He just failed to finish.
Speaking of missed chances, what’s been eating Chris Kaman lately? No one expected Kaman to keep up his torrid early season pace, but in his last 5 games he’s gone 28 for 82 (34%) from the field and has continued to turn the ball over at an alarming rate (3.4/game). Should this be cause for concern? Is Chris Kaman regressing as the season moves forward? If you follow the same theory that was just applied to Thornton, the answer is no. Upwards to 8 or 9 of Kaman’s misses tonight were easily convertible bunnies that are usually a guaranteed two points. This slump hasn’t gone on long enough to justify hitting the panic button quite yet. Give some credit to the defenders who have pestered Kaman the last two games. Ryan Hollins and Roy Hibbert are both extremely long, and their length and shot blocking ability caused Kaman to alter the release point on his jumper just enough to throw it off. Kaman should regroup well against the smaller teams awaiting him next in Detroit, Memphis and Houston. If he struggles mightily in those matchups, especially with Gordon back, then there may be some real cause for concern.
- Gordon’s triumphant return back to the lineup, and his home state, was rained on a bit tonight. Gordon looked a little rusty on the defensive end keeping up with Luther Head, who sparked a completely stagnant Pacers offense in the early going. Gordon showed off his trademark explosiveness on the offensive end, but it only resulted in 6 points off 2 for 7 shooting and a game low mark of -22 in 27 minutes. Surely it wasn’t the homecoming Gordon had in mind. Before the game, Gordon said he was “100 percent”, but expect a few games of Gordon shaking off the cobwebs.
- The Clippers pick and roll defense has been notably better this year, but tonight it fell apart when it was most needed. Two T.J. Ford/Troy Murphy pick and pop plays in the 4th quarter[4:52, 1:46] resulted in absolutely back breaking buckets. Murphy is a tough cover in those situations for any big man, but the Clippers would be well served to tighten up in that area of defense. There are plenty of big men out west (Nowitzki, Frye, Odom) who can destroy the Clippers off that simple two man game.
- There was a point in the third quarter where both teams were shooting under 30%. The main beneficiary in an ugly contest like this? Garbage man extraordinaire, Marcus Camby. Camby’s line through three periods was absolutely ridiculous – 10 points, 20 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. It’s scary to think how the Clippers would have fared the last two contests without his services.
- Maybe the most damning stat of the night, outside of the putrid shooting totals: Clippers as a team had 9 assists…and 14 turnovers. When the team isn’t shooting well, taking care of the ball or sharing it, the offense is going to perform poorly like it did this evening.
- A pet peeve of mine when watching younger kids practice is that most of them warmup incorrectly. They’ll get on the court, and almost without fail they’ll start jacking up threes. I understand that – shooting three pointers is fun. They count for more points, I get it. But for warming up purposes, it makes no sense to start from deep. The smart way to warmup is to start right next to the basket, and slowly move your way out as you make shots, get a sense of range, and gain confidence. Baron Davis essentially does that tonight. Instead of settling for outside looks early, Baron gets 3 of his first 4 buckets by driving to the hole for easy layups. And what do you know? A confident Baron hits back to back threes as a result. Baron finished with 25 points tonight, tying his season high and continuing his trend of playing well after a particularly bad individual performance.
The Clippers will return to action Friday night in Detroit, likely after some serious soul searching over the holiday.