The foundations for last year’s annoying 23rd ranked offense were two of the more pestering and inevitable patterns of Clipper failure: third quarter collapses and a disproportionately high amount of turnovers. Completely understandable with a team carrying so many young players, but that doesn’t alleviate how obnoxious the collapses and the turnovers were. Watching the Clippers destroy a close game with second half apathy is almost anger inducing. Watching yet another turnover by a charging Aminu, a pump-faking Kaman, overzealous Baron or Mo, an out of control Bledsoe, a bumbling DeAndre or a team that doesn’t know the shot clock can exasperate even the most loyal of followers. But this year, it will be different.
Sure, the NBA Calendar says the Clippers haven’t played a regular season game, but the Clippers have established mindboggling patterns in the preseason that, to a tempered extent, should carry into the season. In the last two games, the Clippers have turned the ball over 6 (Wed) and 10 (Mon) times compared to the Lakers’ 21 turnovers in each game. Even combining the two games played, the Clippers had 5 fewer turnovers than the Lakers in 21 TO in one game.
At what point last season could the Clippers say that? They were 29th in the league in turnovers last year. Over the course of the entire season, the Clippers had 10 or fewer turnovers only 7 times in 82 games. They had six turnovers, the same as last night’s preseason contest, only once in 82 games. The Clippers AVERAGED 16.37 turnovers, more than their two game preseason total.
And regarding their third quarter performances, in the two preseason games they outscored the Lakers 30-17 (Wed) and 36-17 (Mon). That’s a +32 point differential in two quarters. And there’s the feel factor too, watching those third quarters against the Lakers felt like the most exhilarating part of either game.
It’s not hard to find the cause for this positive change in events. Replacing the Baron/Mo combo with Chris Paul, and inserting Chauncey for Eric Gordon will drastically help with turnovers. And the combined experience and professionalism of Chris Paul and Chauncey should prevent the Clippers from their third quarter slumps on most nights (there will always be letdowns, even for the best teams).
I know, I know, it’s only the preseason, and I will temper my expectations. I don’t think that the Clippers will average 8 turnovers a game, that would be almost 5 fewer turnovers per game than the most efficient ball handling team from last year (the Philadelphia 76ers, surprisingly). And there’s no way that the Clippers have a winning margin of +16 during the third quarter during the year when the best differential from last year was +10.4 for the entire game (the Bulls). But what I will expect is a positive pattern of taking care of the basketball and strong third quarters. And wins, lots of wins.