Six thoughts from the win last night:
- Generally speaking, the Clippers are not a very good shooting team. Coming into last night’s game the team ranked 23rd in field goal percentage from the 10-15 feet range, 24th in field goal percentage from 16-23 feet, and 26th in effective field goal percentage from three point land. As bad as those numbers are, there is no better team this year inside of 10 feet than the Clippers – they shoot an outstanding 53% from that range, good for first in the league by a wide margin. What this means is that if the perimeter shots are falling, the Clippers are an extremely tough out. Last night the team shot a blistering 10 for 16 from deep and routed the Sixers behind a team effective field goal percentage of 61.3%. It was one of the league’s worst jump shooters in Baron Davis who steadied the effort, finishing with 20 points on 8 for 12 shooting, highlighted by a 3 for 4 performance from outside the arc.
- Was this Philadelphia playing poorly, or the Clippers playing great? Well…both. Philadelphia was certainly bad defensively last night, and the Clippers found very little resistance and plenty of open looks by simply swinging the ball around the perimeter once or twice. You would think a team composed of guys like Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Sam Dalembert, Jrue Holiday and Marreese Speights would run quite a bit, right? Surprisingly enough, the Sixers actually play at the second slowest pace in the league. Eddie Jordan is a coach whose Princeton style offense is predicated around lots of backdoor cuts and quick ball movement, but the Sixers are just atrocious in executing their half-court sets. Considering how well the Clippers shot the ball last night, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have won by 16 points. Philadelphia just couldn’t manufacture enough points out of their half-court sets, even though the Clippers gifted them 20 turnovers.
- Has DeAndre Jordan worked his way back into the rotation? It’s tough to tell for sure since Coach Dunleavy stayed home with a herniated disc in his lower back, but this does make three straight games in which the big man has seen action. DeAndre finished the night with 7 points and 9 rebounds in 19 very productive minutes, highlighted by his trademark thunderous jams. Perhaps I’m reading tea leaves, but is DeAndre Jordan receiving playing time to prepare him for a more substantial role should the team trade Marcus Camby? Either way, the floor time DeAndre is receiving is crucial to his development and confidence. The egregious traveling violations and multiple air-balled free throws make it tough to stick with him sometimes, but taking the lumps now as opposed to later may be the smart thing to do.
- Philadelphia native Rasual Butler is very quietly coming into his own for the Clippers as of late. In the month of December Rasual shot 46.7% from the field, but more importantly hit an impressive 39.7% of his shots from three point range. Last night Rasual spent most of his time hovering around the perimeter, going 4 for 8 from three point range. Generally the Clippers go as Baron Davis goes, but it’s also worth noting that the team is undefeated (4-0) in games where Rasual Butler has connected on at least 4 attempts from behind the arc. Last night against the sluggish Philly defense it was essentially target practice for Rasual; the real test will come against defenses who close out quicker and chase him off the line. The Clippers are a much more dynamic offensive team when someone has it going from deep like Rasual and Baron did last night.
- Chris Kaman played backwards of his typical game last night. Usually Kaman starts hot and cools down late, but that wasn’t the case in the last NBA game of the decade. The oft-maligned Sam Dalembert was the one who started hot, incredibly blocking five of Kaman’s first quarter shot attempts. Long defenders have been the proverbial Kryptonite for Kaman this season, but luckily for both Kaman and the Clippers, Dalembert’s uselessness on the offensive end renders him from warranting full time minutes. In a much friendlier matchup Kaman dominated the heavily booed Elton Brand simply because Brand didn’t offer the athleticism or length to bother Kaman the way Dalembert did early on. Kaman finished with a game high 26 points, but more importantly showed a great level of persistence despite the unusual bad start.
- Think about all the crushing defeats the Clippers have suffered this year and the subsequent response the following game. When the Clippers got whipped by Memphis on November 18th, they came back and beat Denver on national television the very next game. When the team fell apart against Indiana on November 25th, they rebounded against Detroit the next night. The painful loss to New York on the 18th of December was followed up the next game with a overtime win against Philly. How about that beatdown at the hands of Phoenix on Christmas? That too was answered with a huge win against the best team in the league in Boston. And now last night, after a demoralizing loss to Portland, the Clippers again answered the bell by beating Philly on national television. Give the players and coaching staff some credit. They’ve had all the reasons and all the excuses in the world to lay down, but time and time again they’ve picked themselves up off the mat and kept fighting.