With Eric Gordon assigned to Steve Nash for the bulk of the night, both Jason Richardson and Grant Hill are eager to post up Baron Davis and give the Clippers’ guard a little taste of his own medicine. That’s what Hill does at about the 7:40 mark of the third quarter in a half-court sequence that illustrates the Clippers’ poor decision-making at the outset of the second half. The Clippers give up 39 points in 24 possessions to Phoenix (162.5/100 possessions). You begin to understand why when you see Drew Gooden leave Amare Stoudemire to double Hill. Davis is ceding a bit of ground to Hill, as the vet backs him down off the left block, but it’s not a Defcon 4 situation. As Gooden comes over, Rasual Butler rotates onto Stoudemire.
Now facing a double-team, Hill kicks the ball to Nash out along the perimeter. Butler leaves Stoudemire to return to his original assignment on the possession — Jason Richardson along the weak side arc. And Gooden reacquaints himself with Stoudemire at the foul line.
Here’s where the breakdown occurs: Hill re-posts against Davis and Nash feeds him again. And, again, Gooden darts over with the hard double-team — but this time, there’s no one to pick up Stoudemire. Butler is at home on Richardson (probably not a bad idea since Richardson drained a 27-footer on the preceding possession), while Chris Kaman guards Robin Lopez beneath the weak side glass. Hill has been playing professional basketball since the merger, and he delivers a smart bounce pass through the lane to a diving, unguarded Stoudemire, who finishes untouched with a slam.
The Clippers get beat in the third quarter on the defensive end in every conceivable way:
- They fail to get back on the break (Hill, 3rd, 10:07) or pick up shooters who trail then spot up (Richardson, 3rd, 8:02), or trailers who dart to the rim untouched (Stoudemire, 3rd, 6:22).
- The Clips’ smaller guards get beat by Jason Richardson in the post (3rd, 10:23; 3rd, 0:43).
- They get abused by Stoudemire on dribble-drives that start inside of 15 feet (3rd, 11:25; 3rd, 9:33; 3rd, 3:44).
- They fail to provide help on the most potent pick-and-roll combo in the game (3rd, 2:51).
- They unwittingly slough off the best 3-point shooting center in the game, even though there’s nothing worth protecting below the foul line in this particular sequence (3rd, 4:22).
- They give up easy points on turnovers (3rd, 0:21).
- They also foul with impunity, sending Phoenix to the line for 14 free throws in the quarter. Some of those trips to the stripe materialize because the Clips have no other recourse in transition (3rd, 2:19; 3rd, 1:29) and some of them occur because the Clips have no recourse against Stoudemire down low (3rd, 1:46; 3rd, 1:14).
It’s really too bad because the Clippers do a lot of positive things in the first half. Most notably, they creatively generate some nice looks for Eric Gordon — a flare screen (1st, 9:47) and a pin-down from Kaman (1st, 6:53) are my two favorites. It’s high-grade, well-executed offense that not only delivers the ball to Gordon where he can do some serious damage, but also lowers the likelihood of a turnover.
Wednesday is the kind of game that tempts you into believing that Marcus Camby would’ve made a difference — especially when you examine the 50-30 rebounding deficit — but the Clips haven’t defended the Suns all season.