The Clippers lost their cool in every sense of the word, as they fell for the third time this season to Minnesota.
1. Why do the Timberwolves have the Clippers’ number?
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: They match up well and they are much better coached. Blake Griffin wants no part of Kevin Love, who punishes him for his lack of effort on defense. Rubio has the length, quickness and ninja point guard sense to stay in front of Chris Paul. And in Derrick Williams (and Michael Beasley), Minny has the high-scoring wings we knew would give the Clips fits. That the series has gone this way really shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Tough to say. Kevin Love has been good the last two games, but the 2nd loss required fluke performances from Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley. Obviously they narrowly won in the 1st and 3rd match-ups, but they led this one from wire-to-wire. They just take advantage of the Clippers weaknesses defending the 3-point line and pick-and-roll, I suppose.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: In the two recent losses to the T’Wolves, the Clippers shot around 20% from the three-point line, a particular problem when you live and die by the long ball. Rick Adelman also does an excellent job of directing his players to exploit the Clippers’ embarrassing perimeter defense and frequent over-collapsing of the key. But there is nothing inherent about the T’Wolves that creates a poor matchup for the Clips.
2. Who are you more worried about going forward: DeAndre Jordan or Caron Butler?
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: DeAndre is struggling, but he still has value on defense, even when the effort seems to come and go. But the answer is Butler. His efficient scoring on the wing was key to the Clippers’ early success, but he’s been invisible of late. He isn’t getting to the hole and he looks like a 31-year old coming off of knee surgery. When we are talking about his backup in the context of a 10-day contract renewal, that’s cause for concern.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Caron Butler. DJ has had his struggles of late on defense, but I don’t think Synergy’s numbers would lie two years in a row about him being an excellent defender. He still had 12 boards 2 blocks and 2 steals in 22 minutes tonight, let’s not forget (although I saw Darko hit those shots over him juts like all of you). I’d like to see Vinny stick with him through struggles to build his confidence back up. Caron Butler is another story. He isn’t a great career 3-point shooter, he’s on the downslope of his career, and this lockout schedule is killing him. I’m not sure how much he’ll have left in the tank come playoff time.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: Caron Butler. The worry is that the wear and tear on his knees caught up with him earlier than expected during the shortened season (or earlier than expected during his three year, $24 million contract). On the bright side, Bobby Simmons made a four-point play tonight.
3. For the first time this year, the Clippers no longer lead the Pacific Division. Will they finish as division champions?
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: It’s still a toss-up. Neither team is elite, but both are completely capable of finishing on top of the division. Some of the Clippers’ key contributors are struggling and may not bounce back, but let’s keep in mind that the Lakers are counting on Derek Fisher and have only four players with double-digit PER’s. The Clippers have 10.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: No. Simple Rating (via basketball-reference) indicates that the Clippers are probably the 7th best team in the NBA’s Western Conference thus far, and I haven’t seen anything to lead me to believe that they’ll end up much better than the Lakers. The Lakers, although not worlds ahead of the Clippers, are a strong defensive team with far more experience.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: A cautious yes. The Lakers are going to make an upgrade at PG before the deadline and that team would perform better than the Clippers during the Regular Season. If the great Neil Olshey can swing for one of the more talented shooting guards who’ve been set on the trading block (Ray Allen, perhaps) the Clippers will certainly be justified in setting their sights higher than the top of Pacific Division.