If you thought that Blake Griffin was going to solve all Clippers’ problems, well, that’s obviously not the case. In the second game of the season, the Clippers lost to the Warriors by 18 and the second half of the game didn’t even feel that close.
The game’s first possessions started out ugly, as Clippers went to Chris Kaman to get them started and all he did was continue his cold shooting from Portland and go 0 for his first 4 shots. Most of his shots were ones he would normally make, he even missed a little bunny shot under the basket. Not surprisingly, the Clippers found themselves in an early hole that was compounded by the hot shooting of the Warriors.
The Clippers admirably fought back against the Warriors, playing tough defense for about a quarter (second half of the first quarter and first half of the second) that led to a large crop of turnovers by the Warriors and a Clippers first quarter lead, 28-27. If they weren’t going to slow them down shooting, the Clippers had to do it by stopping the Warriors from even taking shots.
In a stretch of the second quarter Baron did most of his damage but he still had some worrying trends. He did finish with 16 points and 8 assists but there were frequent times when he had a Blake Griffin screen which he used poorly, either by trying to be too clever and going away from the screen or by taking the screen too cavalierly thus allowing for the defender to go over the screen with him, and then he drove to the basket without a plan.
There was one time I clearly remember that, even though he beat his man, he found himself in the air tangled up in the long limbs of Warriors defenders and he tried to shovel pass to Eric Gordon and BD missed the pass by at least 6 feet. The Clippers did, magically, get the ball back on that possession but it was endemic of the Clips night. They frequently looked discombobulated out there.
The Warriors are a team that isn’t going to be great defensively, but they play offensively very, very well. Monta Ellis, to make up for not scoring 46 like the first game, dished out 11 assists. That almost matched his shot total (12). Every one of their starters shot over 50 percent from the field. The team looked cohesive, if only on one side of the ball.
The same can’t be said for the Clippers on either side of the ball. They haven’t found their rhythm, probably because the dynamic of the team has changed so drastically. Last year, it was simple: Baron the creator, Gordon slasher wing and Kaman is the post man. Simple. This year they have to integrate Blake and, judging from last night, the team is too aware of it. They haven’t had enough reps for their unity to become second nature yet. This team will need some time to cohere, one side of the ball at a time, before they start winning games.
What should be encouraging is how hard Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin are playing, even in the midst of a strong Warriors run, the two looked for the ball and tried to be aggressive (so aggressive that Gordon crossed over Steph Curry so bad that Curry turned an ankle)
Talent and effort haven’t always been things that they Clippers have had and in the long run it will pay off. But for right now they need to focus on the team chemistry, finding a rhythm on offense and talking to each other on defense, so that they can start winning some games.