Here are five things I saw from a team with consistency issues pulling out a second matinee win in two days:
- Chris Paul had his time. Dr. Oliver Eslinger wrote about how for the Clippers’ offense to be successful, Paul needs time and space to operate. When he has the ball, cutters need to cut and screeners need to roll or pop with purpose. When they don’t, defenses can collapse and make the Clippers a jump-shooting, and very beatable, team. Early on against the Pistons, Paul got his space; DeAndre Jordan was creating opportunities at the hoop and shooters had good spacing on the perimeter and Paul was finding them. After one quarter, seven players had scored, Paul had seven assists and the Clippers led by six. But they reverted back to isolation sets and missed jumpshots, and Paul had to create on his own. Blake Griffin had seven of his possessions in the post and four others in isolation, so the high post went quiet. Rather than continue with pick-and-rolls that would clog up the middle, Paul shifted his attack towards dribble penetration and it carried them down the stretch.
- Neither Blake Griffin nor DeAndre Jordan scored a point in transition. Greg Monroe (23 points and 15 rebounds), Jonas Jerebko (14 and eight) and Tayshaun Prince (20 and seven) went to work against the Clippers’ front line of Griffin, Jordan and Caron Butler. They couldn’t get stops and therefore couldn’t run, which led to more half court offense, and that just isn’t working right now. Because they also lost the rebounding battle, 47-40, the Clippers were unable to develop any tempo after the first quarter. Jordan — who had foul trouble and played only about six minutes of the second half and overtime — was both principally responsible for and adversely affected by the lack of energy on offense.
- Nick Young played like the starting 2. Considering the standards, he stepped in without any time to prepare and gave the Clippers exactly what they were looking for. On his first two touches he moved the ball responsibly, before knocking down the first jumper he took. He missed his next five shots in 29 minutes off the bench, but he got to the line and made 7 of 8 free throws. Unfamiliar with the offense — he may ultimately just be asked to stand in the corner — today they actually did a good job getting him open on basic down screens and handoff plays. He was by far the most active Clipper off the ball, and it put obvious pressure on the defense as they worked to chase him on the weakside. Perhaps the most encouraging sign from Young was his own defensive impact. His length bothered Detroit guards Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon into bad shooting days, and he showed some versatility when capably matched up with Tayshaun Prince.
- Nick Young means backcourt changes. He didn’t start today, but because of his size and ability to create offense, he will soon. What happens to the rotation of Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe will be interesting to see. Young played more minutes on Sunday than Foye (25) or Williams (24) and Bledsoe didn’t get off the bench. Williams and Foye can go cold, and in Bledsoe Vinny Del Negro has someone he can count on to pressure the ball and provide energy to a team that lacks it way too often. With more scorers in the second unit, you’d think Bledsoe’s skill set would be welcome, but managing these three could be tricky.
- Caron Butler is really struggling. He just looks uncomfortable on both ends. Jerebko and Prince had no trouble scoring on him. He took 10 jumpers and made only one — just had no lift. He did show effort in pulling down eight rebounds and diving on the floor on one occasion, but we saw no signs on Sunday that Bobby Simmons’ minutes are in jeopardy.