The road has not been good to the Clippers this year and last night was just another example. The Clips came out flat and fought their way almost all the way back only to make stupid mistakes in the final minutes to lose the game. Their confidence in tight situations on the road doesn’t seem to be there yet. But recently, at home at least, the Clippers have been developing those winning ways. They are actually 3-1 in their last 4 games at Staples, with one of those victories coming against tonight’s opponent, the Sacramento Kings.
A win over the Kings isn’t exactly an impressive measuring stick for a team, but it will say so much if they can’t beat them. The Kings have lost 7 in a row, a stretch that extends further back than their Thanksgiving night loss to the Clippers. They only have one player averaging more than 13 points per game (Tyreke averages 17), DeMarcus Cousins is fouling too much to stay on the court and Carl Landry hasn’t proven to be as productive in a starting role as he has off the bench in Houston.
But it extends more than just their play. DeMarcus Cousins is either petulant or prematurely curmudgeonly. One or the other, he’s not fitting in on a team that is already considering him a building block. Which doesn’t give the Kings the same kind of confidence that the Clippers have with Griffin.
Tyreke Evans has been hobbled by multiple injuries to his wheels. This includes a knee injury, ankle injury and plantar fasciitis. What made him such a great player was his eruptive capacity to get to the rim. Without his legs under him, he’s a fraction of his true ability.
Because of the deficiencies on and off the court to the Kings, this game is very winnable, even with the suspension to Cook and the aggravated injury to Kaman. But the Clippers need to continue to evolve.
One of the promising moments of last game was Aminu guarding Brandon Roy. I’ll be honest, I thought that was the exact sort of match up that would eviscerate Aminu. I even remember tweeting my uncertainty with VDN’s decision, also because it put Bledsoe on Matthews (who did go off for 26 points on 10 for 19 shooting). But I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to be Aminu that got lit up, not Bledsoe. It gives me a little bit more hope for Aminu on the defensive end, he might be able to contribute more, sooner. I don’t know if that’s an indictment on Roy’s knees or if it’s growing confidence in Aminu’s one on one defensive abilities (let’s face it, he still get’s lost on rotations), but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. Even though Brandon Roy finished with 14 points, it came on a 3 for 13 bricklaying.
I doubt that VDN will put Aminu on Tyreke, because Gordon matched up with ‘Reke a lot on Thanksgiving. But at least I won’t be a nervous wreck if there is a switch demanding Aminu to guard Tyreke. One more thing that can help the Clips win.
Keys for the Clips:
– Free throw shooting. DeMarcus fouls a lot. Blake draws a lot of fouls. Blake needs to make them. Same with the rest of the team, but Blake shoots such a high percentage of the attempts with a dastardly percentage of makes. There was a comment by Mike Smith last night about how Blake needs to develop a routine on his free throws that extends beyond catching and shooting it. That just screams the yips to me. He doesn’t have to do the Gilbert Arenas ring around the rosie routine, nor does he have to do the 15 second routine of Dwight Howard but Mike Smith made a great comment that Blake looks out of breath and would benefit from a couple dribbles.
– Energy. The Clippers came out soft against the Blazers. Falling down 22 in the first half. It just looked ugly. VDN was impressed with the fight they showed in the second half against the Blazers and wants that to continue. Okay, maybe fight isn’t such a good word.
– Protect the ball. The Clippers were done in by costly turnovers in the game. Eric Bledsoe had his pocket picked in the 4th and Blake lead a 3 on 1 fast break that lead to a steal. These are not difficult situations. These are fundamental ball-handling and passing plays that the Clippers have been blowing.