Around Halloween time as a kid, do you remember reading about Witches’ Soup? Basically Witches’ Soup was made by a witch that threw a bunch of nasty stuff into a giant black cauldron — boots, banana peels, spiders, eyeballs…ya know, that whole bit. I specifically remember as a child thinking about the point where I would no longer be able to stomach the imaginary soup, sort of like a make-believe game of Fear Factor. Even though I was a human garbage disposal at that age, eventually there would be too much nasty stuff added to let myself even fathom eating the concoction.
When the Clippers play poorly, it’s sort of like the basketball version of Witches’ Soup. Add one thing to the pot, like 15 turnovers, and you can survive that. Toss in 9 for 30 shooting from your starting backcourt and it gets a little tougher, but it’s still manageable. Sprinkle in 22 allowed fast break points, and 5-20 shooting from deep and all of the sudden things begin to look rather disgusting. In most losses this season, the Clippers have only done a small combination of things poorly. Tonight however, specifically down the stretch, the Clips seem to bust out every ingredient that has contributed to each of their 35 losses on the year.
Outside of the red-hot Rasual Butler, no Clipper plays particularly well tonight. Eric Gordon goes 4 for 13 and struggles to find his jumper all night. At this stage of his career, Gordon is a little like Butler in that if his shot isn’t falling, he’s not incredibly valuable on the offensive end. Of course the difference is Gordon can penetrate, but until he learns to properly kick out on his drives and stop leaving his feet to pass, he’s somewhat of an easy cover for a focused team defensively. Drew Gooden does a nice job drawing fouls and getting to the line (7-7 FT), but his 5 turnovers hurt. Between Gooden and Kaman, defenses can make a living by swarming the post once the Clippers’ big men put the ball on the deck, and a lengthy Sacramento team does a good job of doing just that tonight. It’s good to see Travis Outlaw attempt to assert himself on the offensive end, but he’s cold tonight and goes 3 for 10 from the field. Although Outlaw doesn’t shoot the ball well, his 8 rebounds from the small forward position are a sight for sore eyes. DeAndre Jordan had his typical roller-coaster of a game, getting 3 points, 5 boards, 3 blocks and 3 turnovers in 16 minutes of play.
Down the stretch it’s a frustrating display of the faults of Chris Kaman and Baron Davis. After dropping an easy pass underneath from Drew Gooden [3:42, 4Q], Kaman fails to get out in time to contest a 20-footer from Carl Landry [3:30, 4Q]. Even with the mistakes, the Clippers cut the lead to one behind a Rasual Butler three-pointer [2:06, 4Q]. On the ensuing possession, Kaman collects a defensive rebound but panics and floats a lazy outlet pass that’s knocked away by Ime Udoka. Udoka makes an incredible save and the Kings retain possession. Tyreke Evans then receives a handoff from Hawes [1:27, 4Q] in the high post that baffles the Clippers’ defense. Rasual Butler gets caught up in the handoff on Hawes, Kaman is late stepping over to impede Evans’ progress, and Baron Davis is in no man’s land in his help defense. The possession results in an easy layup for Evans and a huge swing back in momentum for the Kings. Kim Hughes likes to go back up without a timeout, but the Clippers looked flustered in their attempt to answer. Butler is on fire, but without the proper set being drawn up for him he has no chance of springing free for a decent look. The Kings scramble and lock up defensively, and the Clippers don’t get the ball within 25 feet of the basket even once. Eventually Baron Davis shoots a late shot clock three…from 30 feet away [1:02, 4Q]. Can you blame Baron for the shot late in the clock? Maybe not. But you’d surely like to think he could have helped manufacture a better look earlier with the game on the line.
Tonight’s game serves as a reminder of the imperfections of the Clippers as individuals. Baron Davis can’t really shoot. Chris Kaman’s decision making can’t be fully trusted late in games. Eric Gordon is not exactly a versatile offensive threat. DeAndre Jordan will make the occasional silly mistake. Can these faults all be hidden and compensated for? Absolutely — just most nights you can’t stomach it all at once.