Hey gang, it’s just me tonight, talking about the Clippers’ win in that OT…eyebrow raiser. It wasn’t good enough to be an OT thriller, I don’t think, but it was certainly a back-and-forth game.
So, probably the thing that stood out the most was Blake. Houston had his number last season, but that was really Chuck Hayes. That guy is a great defender. And yet tonight, Luis Scola and Pat Patterson both did a solid job making him put up awkward hooks and the occasional jumper rather than letting him roll to the rim or bulldoze his way to a foul. Blake’s number were at least a little misleading in my mind, though, because he had some solid hockey assists out of the post. Never the less, we can’t have Blake being mostly-defused on offense while allowing Luis Scola a 16 point 12 rebound night on really efficient shooting.
Beyond Blake, I really hated the perimeter defense. It hasn’t been good all season, and it has only gotten worse since Chauncey went down. Chris Paul is a solid defender in every facet of the game except for an ability to switch onto larger guards. I put no blame on him. But Randy Foye and Caron Butler are tough to watch. They can’t get through screens, they don’t close out particularly well, they aren’t very effective as isolation defenders (although Caron holds his own one-on-one usually, I do give him credit for that). And with at least one forward or center on the floor at all times who can’t protect the rim and doesn’t rotate very well, the Clippers are going to struggle. They give up a high percentage of shots around the rim (although they’re top-10 in limiting attempts at the rim, a testament to DeAndre and Kenyon rotating well), and they foul far too much. Kevin Martin is a master of drawing fouls, but Randy Foye and Mo made it too easy for him tonight. Pumpfake after pumpfake was bit on and it was hard to watch. And even with all of that ill-advised flying out on shooters, the Clippers surrendered 10/20 3-point shooting to the Rockets. And not many of those makes were all that well contested. This was not a Beasley-Williams-type fluke.
Offensively, things were good, as usual. They might not have been pretty or easy, but the Clippers put up good numbers tonight. Open threes were falling, CP3 was hitting shots and getting to the line while dishing and limiting turnovers, Randy Foye and Mo Williams benefited from attention on Paul and Blake. And even after a rough rebounding first half, the Clippers ended up pretty much evening things up on the glass with Houston, who are a solid rebounding squad in their own right.
Final thoughts? The Clippers are exactly who they seem to be. This is a team with glaring defensive weaknesses, a strong offense that can struggle without Chris Paul on the court, and good rebounding habits. That adds up to a playoff team that can beat any other playoff team, but also lose to pretty much any other playoff team (I don’t know what happened with that Phoenix loss).
We’ll reconvene after Monday’s rematch against the Timberwolves to talk about what adjustments the team makes (don’t worry, we’ll have the built-in excuse of the back-to-back if the Clips look bad).