Far and away the most compelling sequence of the night:
This is the only time the Clippers body up all night. The Clips have been among a select group of truly awful defensive teams in basketball for more than a month. Tonight, they give up 107 points in 90 possessions (118.9 points per 100) to a team that isn’t all that competent offensively. Milwaukee plays some of the smartest defense in the league, but they’re only 23rd in the NBA in offensive efficiency. When the Brandon Jennings-Andrew Bogut pick-and-roll isn’t producing points, the Bucks don’t have a lot else on the board — unless you give it to them.
The Clippers make it simple. The first-half perimeter rotations and decision-making are so horrendous, so completely counter-intuitive and absent, that the Bucks are able to find open shooter after open shooter along the arc. Milwaukee drains seven of their 14 3-point attempts before intermission.
At the risk of singling out Travis Outlaw, there’s a possession at (2nd, 10:23) where John Salmons uses an off-ball screen by Ersan Ilyasova to catch a pass at the right elbow. Salmons gets the ball in motion, then moves seamlessly into his drive:
Why does Outlaw converge on Salmons from weak side even though three Clippers are already present? Outlaw has some very bad habits, one of which is being drawn to the ball as if it’s a shiny object even when he’s needed elsewhere on the court. Despite committing himself, Outlaw never gets anywhere near Salmons and has no chance of disrupting the play. When the defense converges on a shooter, there’s a law of diminishing returns when it comes to bodies. A fourth guy doesn’t add all that much to a scrum of three.
Being nowhere along the perimeter defensive offers only one potential unintended benefit. Since all five guys are in closer proximity to the basket, controlling the boards shouldn’t be a problem.
You’d think the Clips’ not-necessarily-by-design packed-in defense would help them on the defensive glass, but as inept as they are covering the perimeter, they’re even more hapless keeping the Bucks off the boards. The Bucks rack up 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, turning them into 17 second-chance points. Chris Kaman and Drew Gooden each finish with 10 and 11 rebounds respectively, but they get handled in the first half underneath.
Overall, I don’t feel like the Clippers have mailed it in of late, but there are a few moments in these kinds of games when teams like Milwaukee, still fighting for something, demonstrate a bit more will. The pursuit of loose balls and rebounds outside a player’s immediate vicinity is one of those places.
Eric Gordon is exceedingly frustrated, probably as frustrated as he’s ever been in a pro game. He’s passing the ball with more confidence, but tonight isn’t the first time in the past several weeks when he’s allowed his shot selection and decision-making to reflect that frustration. For instance, he’ll get cheated on a call, then come down a couple of possessions later and drive into the trees, adamant to prove his point. Again he doesn’t get a call — and in some instances doesn’t deserve one — and the frustration compounds.
It’s a different brand of frustration than we’re accustomed to seeing with most young players. Eric’s not demonstrative and rarely displays expressive body language. But that doesn’t mean you can’t detect frustration on that round head. His preferred restraint requires some effort on his part, and you can see him working.