Ed Note: I’ll spare you guys the Star Wars comparisons this time. You can hear me Jar Jar Binks the whole thing in the last segment of ClipperBlogLive. It was as awful as it sounds, but hopefully still entertaining. — D.J.
How you view this game largely depends on whether or not you’ve fully adapted to the new Clippers psyche. Let’s break this thing down with the two different viewpoints.
With Chris Paul back in the lineup, the Clippers lost 96-91.
Old Psyche: Sure, Chris Paul was back — but did he do anything? Paul was 2-for-8. He had 4 points. The majority of his assists came on the perimeter, not at the rim. The corpse of Derek Fisher outscored him, so you know he wasn’t himself. If he’s healthy, it’s a completely different story. Really, it’s promising the game was so tight without him playing well.
New Psyche: It doesn’t matter if Chris Paul wasn’t at full strength — he’s a better point guard than Fisher on one leg. It’s inexcusable that with all the talent on the perimeter, Andrew Goudelock put up more points than Paul and Billups combined. Why can’t the Clippers offense consistently create good looks? This is a coaching problem.
The Clippers shot 37-for-87 from the field (42.5 percent) for their 91 points.
OP: Hey, the Clippers are a jump-shooting team. Sometimes they just don’t fall. You know what’s great to take away from this game, though? The Clippers got up 21 more shots than the Lakers. They’re winning the possession battle just about every night because they’re rarely turning the ball over. If the backcourt doesn’t have an outlier of a night shooting the ball (11-for-41 between Paul, Billups, Williams and Foye), they probably win this game by 20.
NP: Relying on jumpers is not a sustainable way to win basketball games. What if they go cold for an entire week during the playoffs? Is that going to be the calling card for a Chris Paul/Blake Griffin led team? 19-foot jumpers? This is a coaching problem.
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 42 points on 15-for-24 shooting.
OP: There’s no shame in this. Gasol is one of the most skilled big men in the game, and Andrew Bynum is a load in the paint. Not to worry — we’ve seen this song and dance before. Bryant will go into takeover mode when he doesn’t have to, and Bynum and Gasol will become non-factors. Tonight, they just played like elite talents who were finally properly utilized.
NP: Why have so many other teams figured out how to slow down Pau Gasol, but not the Clippers? He was just coming off an 8-point game against Indiana! Why didn’t they double down off Fisher or Barnes and make those guys beat them? Why was human foul and rebound machine Reggie Evans left on an island to handle Gasol all by himself in the second quarter? It’s a concern that Griffin and Jordan are getting ran over by good frontcourts. This is a coaching problem.
The defensive lapses down the stretch came up again, as the Lakers came from behind and stole the win.
OP: Defensively, the effort was there. Caron Butler made Bryant work and got a hand up on most of his shots. Of course, Bryant getting buckets was inevitable and it’s understandable that Bynum and Metta were going to get away with some things once the game became even more physical. History says that Chris Paul’s team will be better than Kobe Bryant’s team in the game’s final minutes 9 times out of 10. Look — the Lakers were just better tonight.
NP: Nope — that’s too many games in row where the Clippers have yielded open looks when their defense is supposed to be getting tighter. The need for a wing defender is still a glaring one. The crusty old Lakers found a way to get blocked shots and steals towards the end of the game — why couldn’t the Clippers? The defensive rotations are slow and often unpredictable, and the closeouts are half-hearted at best. This Clippers are 23rd in defensive efficiency and can’t cook up ways not to rely so heavily on Billups and Butler to be fresh and active defenders on the perimeter. This is a coaching problem.
It’s crazy to think that we’ve arrived to the point where no loss is acceptable and there are no moral victories, but here we are. Which side do you stand on? Are the Clippers in trouble or not? Is it no longer okay, given all the talent, that the Clippers get outplayed by a championship contender?
Yours in the comments section.