For a team that’s dedicated itself to a more intuitive brand of basketball, I can’t recall one instant, apart from Bobby Brown’s alley-oop to DeAndre Jordan (3rd, 0:37), when a member of the Clippers creates a shot or makes a play for a teammate. You see basic entry passes (although even those present a serious challenge Tuesday night), an occasional reversal (usually prompted by Portland’s defensive pressure on the wing), but there’s nothing profound occurring in the Clippers’ offense. Sure, there’s spontaneity, but those impulses translate into nothing more than ad hoc decisions to confront defenders one-on-one. There’s no plan whatsoever, which explains how the Clippers throw away about a quarter of their possessions on turnovers, and how the Clippers generate only 15 assists.
Chris Kaman is entirely ineffectual, scoring four points and racking up seven turnovers. The good news? He’s looking to pass out of the double-team. The bad news? He’s incapable of doing so. Witnessing Kaman on nights like this, you begin to appreciate Zach Randolph on the low block. Better to be unwilling and unable than willing and unable.
I don’t doubt that Baron Davis truly believes he’s doing what’s necessary to establish his bona fides as team leader. What Baron doesn’t understand is that you can’t be undisciplined and indiscriminate and expect people to fall in line. You can’t launch nine of your 11 attempts from 18 feet and beyond — draining only two of the nine — without hurting your team. That’s not leadership. It’s gluttony.
The Clippers’ offense is incoherent, but their defense is atrocious. Portland scores 109 points on 90 or so possessions. As defensive failures go, that’s on par with the loss at Cleveland, the Christmas Day massacre in Phoenix and the Kaman-less loss to the Lakers a few weeks back. Martell Webster connects on seven of 11 from beyond the arc. A sampling:
- [1st, 7:11] Andre Miller and LaMarcus Aldridge engage in a two-man game on the left side, with Martell Webster situated along the arc to Miller’s right. Once Miller feeds the ball into Aldridge on the left block, the Trail Blazers’ point guard clears through, then out to the arc to Webster’s right. Since Miller is no threat from there, Baron lingers around the foul line, primed to help on Aldridge if he spins middle. As Aldridge starts his dribble, Rasual Butler makes a curious decision. Even though Davis is hedging and would be the logical help defender to double Aldridge, Butler darts over to Aldridge and blitzes him. The instant Butler attacks, Aldridge kicks the ball out to Webster. Baron, who’s still positioned at the foul line, can’t close quickly enough. Webster drains the 3-pointer.
Butler’s decision is questionable, but its risk can be diminished with good communication. There’s no evidence of that here.
- [1st, 2:59] Another faulty decision. Miller gets the ball at the left elbow on a hand-off from Aldridge, then dribbles across the foul line left to right with Davis trailing him. Davis has to fight through Aldridge. Meanwhile, Gordon accounts for Webster — who has already hit three shot from 3-point distance — on the right wing. As Miller moves laterally, Gordon falls off Webster to pick up Miller.
Here’s the operative question for Gordon: How is Andre Miller most dangerous with the ball in his hands moving east-to-west across the court? The answer: Finding open shooters for clean looks. Therefore, the best way to defend Miller in this situation is not by darting toward him, but by staying at home on the hottest shooter in the building who’s a quick, easy target for Miller just a few feet away.
Gordon makes the wrong decision and Webster nails his fourth 3-pointer of the half.
When the Clippers aren’t allowing Portland to set up shop behind the arc, they’re fouling the hell out of the Blazers, who get to the stripe for 32 attempts. Smith manages to commit five fouls in 25 minutes of action.
Both Bobby Brown and DeAndre Jordan warrant some praise. Brown records five assists in 12 minutes, while Jordan does good work in the basket area on both ends. He continues to struggle when he’s lured defensively away from the box — where Aldridge likes to play — but his post defense and general awareness Tuesday night are promising.