Michael Shagrin wrote this recap for us tonight. I’ll weigh in on this game if I don’t punch a hole in my laptop first. -D.J.
Man, did the Clippers look awful tonight. If the deficiencies in this performance were unique to the matchup against the Western Conference leading Thunder, then tonight’s loss could be written off. But we all know this not to be the case. The theme to today’s three observations is “have the Clippers hit rock bottom?”
First Quarter Highs
The Clippers came out swinging in the first, particularly in the first six minutes where they scored 20 points. Slowing down in the latter portion of the quarter, the Clippers finished the first with 30, only down three going into the second quarter. In an almost identical pattern as last night’s game against the Pacers, the Clippers came out strong, playing hard with crisp passes and hustle but after seeming to fall into a state of complacency, slogged their way through the rest of the game. Last night the Clippers put up 31 in the first quarter and 58 the rest of the way (89 total) while tonight, they managed 30 in the first with 61 during the final three frames (91 total). This is a very disturbing trend because when the Clippers were winning games (emphasis on the past tense), it was on the heels of miraculous fourth quarter comebacks engineered by Chris Paul. If they’re going to put up an embarrassing 41 points in the middle two quarters, don’t expect any late-game wizardry from CP3 because he only can do so much on his own.
Rock Bottom? I think so.
Disclaimer: This is not a shot at Reggie Evans. He does what he can—nothing more, nothing less.
The rebounding over the last few games has been absolutely atrocious. Though some of the box scores wouldn’t necessarily reflect that, tonight’s numbers on the glass are embarrassing. The Clippers were outrebounded 49-31 and it’s not because they were more gassed than the Thunder who also had their second night of a back-to-back after playing away, but because of a general apathy. Tonight’s game was a clinic in ball watching. If I had a dollar for every time Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Kenyon Martin didn’t put a body on someone, I’d give every cent to Donald Sterling to spend on a one-day clinic with Dennis Rodman (maybe he could teach these guys how to use their rump). Please, re-read the disclaimer. Okay, now that you understand how much I love Reggie Evans, you won’t be upset when I call him out for failing to walk the line between being a monster on the block and just being a monster. He looks to be pretty out of control–unable to hold onto rebounds, throwing guys to the floor, and complaining after most calls (but he’s nowhere near the worst on the team in this department). Much of this criticism is pointed at last night’s game, but his meager twelve minutes of playing time tonight should demonstrate the importance of Reggie finding the right balance.
Rock Bottom? Probably.
Boy has it been difficult watching the Clippers struggle on defense. Though the best teams in the league would have their hands full against Oklahoma City’s potent three-pronged attack, the Clippers looked particularly helpless. Even when the game seemed winnable in the first quarter, the Thunder were scoring at will while the Clippers only stayed in the game by hitting an unconscionable six of eight shots from beyond the arc. With Caron Butler out, Nick Young and Randy Foye ended up playing a lot of island defense against Kevin Durant in isolation sets, and he was torching them pretty good. Even when the Clippers switched to the zone, which tends to give the Thunder offense fits, the rotations were sloppy and slow leaving the perimeter as open as it ever was. The extent that this is a problem for the Clippers and not just a matchup issue was verified when on back-to-back plays, the Thunder pierced the zone and got Lazar Hayward (that’s right, the guy from Marquette who rarely makes it off the bench) consecutive wide-open threes in the same corner. Though I admire Del Negro’s chutzpah for trying to throw a different defense at the Thunder, a quality zone requires thoroughly guided preparation so everybody knows their roles.
Rock Bottom? I want to say yes, come on say yes… No.