A couple of additional points, before going to the video of the final possession:
- It’s a strange game. Strange insofar as the Clippers, whose collective eFG on jumpers is 42.3 percent, drained 11 of 17 shots between 16 feet and the 3-point line (64.8 percent), and 10 for 19 from beyond the arc (52.6 percent/78.9 percent eFG). That’s an outlier of major proportions, particularly against a team that contests shots the way Cleveland does. As a team, the Clippers shoot only 38.0 percent from 16-23 feet and 31.3 percent/50.6 eFG from 3-point range. Assemble tonight’s collection of shots again, and it’s unlikely the Clippers break 90.
- That qualification aside, the Clippers have been running some nice stuff along the perimeter for Eric Gordon and Rasual Butler — flare screens that catch perimeter defenders off balance and don’t give the interior help enough time to close.
- The Clips’ base defense is reasonably effective, though Cleveland’s 118.6 efficiency number would suggest otherwise. The Clippers get crushed on the offensive glass, which allows the Cavs to extend possessions (one reason the game factored out at 86 possessions each, a snail’s pace). The Clippers’ wings deserve praise for their shooting exploits, but they continue to exist in some vortex or negative space where rebounds never fall.
- Craig Smith’s miss with the Clippers trailing by one and 1:25 remaining is particularly heart-breaking, because Smith has performed brilliantly tonight in Kaman’s absence and because he spent the third quarter getting x-rays on his wrist and tuchus and because he rolls to the hoop beautifully when Mo Williams and Varejao trap Baron Davis on the action. LeBron James and Anthony Parker come in from the wings to contest, but Smith still has the angle. He just misses.
The final play:
Why don’t the Cavs foul since they have one to give? Some coaches are increasingly skittish that a resourceful guard like Davis might fling the ball at the basket at the sound of a whistle and find his way to the foul line. Is reducing the Clippers’ possession by a second or so worth that risk? Good question.