It’s pretty rare for me to laugh when watching a basketball game. Ralph Lawler’s quips will usually produce a mild chuckle, and I’ll admit that I get more than a little giggly when his patented “Bingo” turns into an emphatic and somewhat delirious “BAAAANGO!” But for the most part, basketball broadcasts (Taiwan travel commercials aside) rarely make me laugh out loud. But tonight? Tonight was different. Tonight was a laugher in every sense of the word.
How bad is it? The Warriors D-League callups score a combined 36 points. All 180 pounds of Stephen Curry gets 10 rebounds and a triple-double. Andris Biedrins plays 13 minutes…even though the Warriors only suit up eight healthy guys. Something called Anthony Tolliver plays 46 minutes and scores a career high 29 points. The Warriors’ two best players this year (Ellis and Maggette) don’t even play. The Clippers shoot 18 for 57 on shots not at the rim, even though the Warriors sport a three-guard lineup that can’t exactly contest shots. The Warriors end up with an offensive efficiency number of 136.1 teamed with an effective field goal percentage of 70.3 percent, which doesn’t seem like it should be humanly possible. So yeah, it’s all laughably bad.
The Clippers main problem is that they spend most of the evening in defensive no man’s land. For all intents and purposes, many of the Clippers cover absolutely no one tonight, and instead hover within a small area where they are completely and utterly useless because they can’t help on penetration, and they can’t closeout quick enough on shooters. Baron Davis establishes this tone in the first quarter by continually leaving Stephen Curry all alone on the perimeter where Curry predictably and repeatedly makes him pay to the tune of five made threes. Baron’s performance tonight is kind of reminiscent of that roommate who cleans a single dish just so they can say they did the dishes. Baron’s not really helping defensively. He’s just pretending to.
Offensively the Clippers are a disaster tonight. After Baron Davis has trouble scoring on the block early against Curry it all falls apart and the floor spacing after these failed post up attempts becomes beyond atrocious. Even when the Clippers are granted with golden opportunities, they still manage to fail spectacularly. When Stephen Curry gets his third foul with 7:48 to go in the 2nd quarter, Don Nelson hides Curry on first Rasual Butler, then Mardy Collins. The result? A combined 1 for 5 from the field, 2 points, and no fouls drawn. It’s the story of the game, as the Clippers don’t punish Golden State one bit for playing small ball. Chris Kaman grabs one offensive rebound the entire game despite towering over his competition. Rasual Butler takes jumpers in transition despite there not being a potential offensive rebounder in sight. The general feel is not unlike that of the 2008-09 season. Eric Gordon gets keyed on, Baron Davis gets discouraged early and starts settling for outrageously long 3s, Chris Kaman gets absolutely swarmed and gets flustered, and the whole offense goes down the drain. You don’t deserve to win if you can’t figure out a way to punish a Warriors team that is one of the worst defensive units in all of basketball.
The most memorable play of the game (for me, anyway) actually isn’t a play at all. With 6 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Stephen Curry draws a foul and the play gets whistled dead. With the action clearly halted, Curry shoots a throwaway 3-pointer…but out of nowhere, in a Kevin Garnett-esque act of defiance, DeAndre Jordan soars to the rim and catches the ball before it can go in. The Clippers have just surrendered 44 points in the third quarter alone, and are behind a whopping 36 points, but here’s DeAndre sending some sort of strange message to the Warriors.It’s pathetic, nonsensical and hilarious all in one.
The whole scene really sums things up nicely. The Clippers seem to perform certain “tasks” on the basketball court because they think it’s what they’re supposed to do, but they’re not really sure. It’s most obvious on the defensive end, where their actions lack conviction or a sense of purpose. The Clippers look like they’ve lost faith in their system, their fellow teammates, their season, and most importantly, themselves. Rarely this year have the Clippers effectively quit on a game. Even in the most embarrassing of losses and the biggest of deficits, the Clippers have at least made it competitive. When you come out and give up 46 points in the third quarter to a shorthanded team composed of D-Leaguers and second round draft picks after they just handed your lunch to you in the first half, that’s quitting. There’s no sugar-coating that. There’s no injury excuse to fall back on. There’s no head coach restricting your supposedly immense talent. There’s no morsel of optimism here.
It goes without saying that the Clippers are heading into the All-Star break in one giant hole. They can still scratch and claw their way out of it and finish the season in a respectable manner, but that would require the players to take some accountability. Sadly enough, it may be more realistic to assume that February 10th is the night the season died.