The Clippers have a healthy team, but the hopes for this season are over. So what’s to expect for their remaining 20 games? Like I said in the previous post, the Clippers have no motivation to tank and get a higher pick, since the Cavs own those rights, so what does the team need to work on?
Free throws. The Clippers are 29th in the league in free throw percentage, largely due to the amount that Blake takes and the rate at which he takes them. Blake has been improving, shooting 70 percent in the last month, but there are other culprits. DeAndre shoots 44.2 percent and has the third most FT attempts on the team. Beyond DJ, there are a handful of mediocre shooters, like Gomes/Diogu/Smith/Rasual when he was on the team/Brian Cook. All shoot under 75 percent and three of them are hired shooters. Improvement should be made.
Opponent three point shooting percentage. The Clippers once gave up a dastardly 42 percent on threes, but they’ve since brought that percentage down to a less terrible 37.2 percent. The early season horrors buoy that number up. They have the athletes, but the Clippers need better communication and a better plan.
Turnovers. The Clips have the worst turnover percentage in the league (29.0), so they need to focus on making smarter passes, and have the offense work more fluidly. No more airmailed alley-oop attempts, no lazy entry passes, no more lackadaisical inbounding and dribbling the ball up court. It’s hard to imagine a team winning when they are the most careless with the ball in the league. Missed shots, no matter how bad, are better than turnovers.
Wins (Wins on the Road). This is what professional basketball all boils down to, and with the lineup healthy, the Clippers need to focus on gutting wins out on the road. They have massive problems but with the leadership of Gordon, Blake, Kaman and Mo, they need to prove their mettle on the road. The team has 12 games on the road. Just more opportunity.
Donald Sterling. So we know that Donald can’t be forced out of the NBA, but the organization needs to do a better job at watching this guy, since it’s clear he can’t watch himself. The latest ad was just another screw up amongst a litany of things much worse. His sincerity is to be questioned. If he did actually care about Black History Month and still didn’t want to give tickets away to his best games against Chicago and Boston (understandable, but he shouldn’t have equated Black with being poor), they should have done it preemptively on the 31st of January against the Bucks. Now the event just feels like a crude attempt to lure fans in by half-assedly celebrating an event that theoretically should garner Sterling some praise and get butts in seats for a team that had just spent the better part of February losing terribly.
Keys to the Game
– Double the pleasure. The Nuggets may have traded away Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony, but they’ve been playing great ball (5-1 since the trade) and it has a lot due to depth. PG: Ty Lawson and Ray Felton. SG: Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith. SF: Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. PF: Nene, Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington. C: Chris “Birdman” Anderson and Timofey Mozgov. Impressive depth. Where the depth really becomes a strength, especially down the stretch, is when they use Felton and Lawson together and they run a lot of high pick and rolls with Nene. Blake has been better in isolation defense, but his pick and roll defense has been suspect at best.
– Defending the three. The Nuggets shoot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc and when they heat up, they can really knock down shoots. Human Blowtorch J.R. Smith probably draws the ire of Nuggets fans with some frequency (and serves as a primary signpost on the road to wasted potential, he would be so good with even a normal mindset), but when he’s on fire, he can get white hot. Smith has made 4 or more three pointers in a game 23 times and the Nuggets are 17-6 when that happens. The Clippers have much improved their three point defense, but the Nuggets have the athleticism, passing and shooting ability to remind the Clippers how hard winning is when the opposing team buries threes.
– Rebounding. In the last four wins with the new team (since the Melo trade), the Nuggets have handily out-rebounded their opponents by 10.5 boards per game (46 to 35.5). That’s one of the Clippers few strengths this year, thanks in large part to Blake, but if the Clippers are going to win, they’ll need to hit the glass hard.
No Clipper injuries to report
Danilo Gallinari: toe, out
Melvin Ely: right ankle, questionable