First things first — Ledger.
Moving along. Yeesh. I knew the Hornets would have some fight in them tonight. They are an NBA team. The crowd was going to be large (was more or less a total sellout). The Clippers were going to be the same bad defensive team that counts on jumpshooting to win.
And what did we get? Horrible defense? Check. The hornets shot almost 58% on the night and attempted 34 free throws. On the bright side, the Clippers weren’t totally hapless, forcing the Hornets (or really quite a few were unforced, but whatever) into 20 turnovers.
Jump shot heavy offense? Check again. 27 3-point attempts and only 5 of them went down (the Hornets are one of the top teams in terms of 3-point defense, admittedly). The Hornets are one of the worst teams in terms of opponent free throw rate, but the Clippers ended up with pretty average free throw attempts / field goal attempts (that’s what free throw rate is, by the way). Randy Foye made 1 out of 14 shots. Blake Griffin was 7/19 from the field (made more than half of his 13 free throws, though, barely).
Jason Smith, who has been injured for most of the season, went off with 7/10 shooting. Stretch bigs love playing the Clippers. He also got thrown out of the game for body-checking Blake, in a callback to Robert Horry-Steve Nash, but with two bigger guys involved and both moving pretty fast and neither having any need to sell the call. The entire New Orleans team seemed to have their way tonight, except maybe Chris Kaman. I know his raw FG% and scoring looks solid, but he also had 7 turnovers. Trevor Ariza was invisible, for what it’s worth. Oh, but wait, Xavier Henry managed 12 points on 4 shot attempts via slashing and hitting an open jumper or two.
That’s the real point. Nothing seemed very tough for the Hornets, even when they were committing some silly turnovers. There was bad pick-and-roll defense. There were easy slashes to the rim. The usual stuff.
For the Clippers, I will shout out the effort on the offensive boards. LAC had 22 of them, which is a whole bunch. Sadly, that didn’t mean those second chances were well used. This plays into my feelings, which are somewhat different from DJ Foster’s in regards to this team’s troubles — I’m not sure it’s all effort. Effort is so great to have, but having good personnel and then using those personnel well is so important. And the Clippers really don’t have great supporting personnel, and they really, really do not use those personnel well in a lot of cases. I’m going to come back with some more specific thoughts after I re-watch the game. Until then, this is your open thread to vent about this deeply saddening loss, and probably talk about how Del Negro is going to be fired any day now.
Jason Smith had a wide-open dunk that I initially attributed to Blake Griffin. In fact, DeAndre Jordan hedged on a pick-and-roll a bit early and every Clippers defender stepped up to help way before Kaman even thought about rolling into the lane. He was just going to pop for a jumper. Now, you have to be ready to help in that situation, but you can’t leave your man wide-open under the basket to do it. At the same time, DJ hedged too soon which led to Kaman getting on the opposite side from him on the floor. This is what I’m talking about when I say that it isn’t just about effort. This team, I deeply believe, wants to defend. But they make really bad mistakes in team defense often and when they aren’t doing that we see different players get abused in isolation. That’s bad.
Blake didn’t have his best game ever tonight, but I like that he took only a single jumper longer than 15-ft tonight. If he can make just a Tim Duncan-type rate from the foul line, this is a really really good offensive game for Blake. Instead, he went 7/13 from the line and had some tough misses on the inside.
In the first quarter, the Clippers spent all of their time inside on offense. Everything was a layup or an open 3 (Clips were 5/8 from long-range in the 1st and only a couple of them were contested). What happened down the stretch? Not much other than the occasional missed opportunity until the 4th quarter. In the 2nd and 3rd the Clippers kept their heads above water by still getting good inside looks off the dribble and only taking 9(ish, the shot chart is iffy) threes in the 2nd and 3rd combined (remember there were 8 taken in the 1st quarter alone).
Then in the 4th, uncharacteristically, things went wrong. So, so wrong. 11 points in the 4th quarter is probably the most shocking, disappointing thing from this team we’ve seen all season. Key was Randy Foye, who missed all 7 of his shot attempts taken in the period. It probably would not have been a bad time to use one of our other SGs. Although neither Mo nor Nick Young was all that inspirational either — I just feel like they both have a better track record in terms of, you know, making shots.
But really, that tells us a lot about this team. Not only is it hard to get good looks because of the slow pace the Clippers like, and the boring offense; but let us again look at personnel. There are a lot of very flawed players on this team and when they aren’t making open looks created by the less-flawed players, the entire team’s flawed defense ends up on full display.
Final thoughts — It is what it is. This isn’t a very good team because it has a lot of not-very-good players and a not-very-good coach for the situation and this not-very-good team is going to do some not-very-good things on more than a few occasions.
Double update: I almost forgot – Del Negro taking Chris Paul out when he got his 5th foul with like 5 minutes to go in the game? COME ON, MAN.