With Friday’s loss to the Cavs, you’d think that there would be a rededication to the game, the Clippers would re-evaluate and figure out what was making them successful. They’d run Blake through the pick and rolls with some isolations plays to keep the Raptors on their toes, they’d make sure to keep the ball moving on the perimeter to get clean looks against a bad defensive team, they’d be more committed to their defense.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, the Clippers blew another third quarter by allowing the lanky Bargniani to score 9 of his 27 points. It was no coincidence that this came when DeAndre drew his fourth foul and Blake had to cover Bargniani. Blake is a superstar in the making, but he still is a mediocre defender. His only strength lies in the isolation plays but if you have any team work and movement on offense, he’ll lose his man. Bargs took advantage of Blake out on the perimeter and going to the rim.
The Clippers fell down 7 in the third.And when the Clippers get down going into the fourth, they rarely ever come back. The Raptors game was no difference, the teams played a game of back and forth in an obnoxious and anti-climactic fourth quarter.
The only close moment came starting with 4:33 minutes left to play when the DeAndre Jordan missed his second free throw to pull the Clippers within three, and then in the maelstrom around the basket, Randy Foye came up with the ball, tossed it back out to Baron who fed Blake for the slam dunk and the deficit shrunk to two. The momentum switched drastically for a moment. Unfortunately, the Raptors immediately responded when Bargniani pump faked DeAndre Jordan into the air, was bumped and made the miracle shot. Bargniani then made the foul shot and the Clippers never mounted another run.
The Clippers were forced into a stagnant offense, too often a single player was responsible for creating his own shot. The Clippers don’t have a team bolstered by a bunch of one on one players. Blake has a small and usually effective repertoire, but when used in succession, he becomes predictable. This is one of the reasons that J.J. Hickson on Friday and Amir Johnson today looked like great defensive players. They knew Blake where Blake was going. If Blake is going to iso down low, it has to be the side dish to the main course of pick and roll. I like his work ethic and desire, but sometimes you can’t just will the ball into the hoop if you don’t have an effective plan.
The reality is that the only consistent creator for the Clippers right now is Baron Davis, who has been fantastic on the road. Foye can do it in spurts, but he showed against the Raptors the inability to get good looks on his own. He often drove into traffic without the body control to garner a legitimate shot, mostly his drives were prayers for a foul bailout. Baron is not a great shooter, but at least he can get himself decent shots off, especially around the basket (which is what makes his bad shots so unfathomably frustrating).
Even if the best teams do have multiple reliable one on one talents, there is always a system that they implement on offense because it’s just too hard to score in the NBA unless there is a plan of attack. For the Clippers, it’s the lack of movement, the lack of misdirection required to get their best players easy shots. What made the Knicks game such a good game (and one that the Clippers still almost lost) was the fact that they passed the ball around. They had 28 assists on 47 field goals. Against the Raptors, the entire Clippers had fewer assists than Baron did in New York (15 to Barons’ 16 in NYC).
Vinny has a challenge with his young team that he managed to figure out at home. The Clippers don’t play with any sort of unity on the road, instead they are helpless and lost and rendered a collection of individuals on offense and defense. It’s true that young players struggle to adapt to the road, and this team is especially young, but if he wants to have any success beyond next year even, this team is going to have to have a clue what they are doing on the road. Right now, they are completely different teams.
• Ike Diogu, one of the consistent bench options for offense only played 3 forgettable minutes. I’m curious why.
• Clippers did a great job on turnovers, especially in the second half (12 total, 4 in the second).
• DeMar DeRozan torched the Clippers at the start. On top of being streaky on offense, Randy Foye is streaky on defense, too.