Friend of ClipperBlog Andrew Han had some thoughts on last night’s win over the Blazers and the big picture for the Clippers. Enjoy.
A brief introduction: My interest in this iteration of the Clippers was piqued primarily by Blake Griffin’s lost year (coming so close after Oden’s injuries was eerie to say the least). Curious, I made an early 2011 New Years resolution to watch every Clippers game during the 2010-11 season. I watched 79 out of 82 games. Obviously I missed 3, so I opted-in on my fan option for the 2011-12 season (I have watched every game this season, by the way). And, if I may, this compressed season is amazing from a fan’s perspective. You get your choice of several games each night plus the uncertainty of schedule fatigue. “Did the other team have a practice?” “Are they on a back-to-back?” “Did we play too many minutes last night?” With the exception of the Thunder and Bulls, teams this season walk into a potential 5/12 March Madness upset special every night. Schedule-tastic. It’s like winning the jackpot for an NBA junkie (but not as good as winning last night’s Mega Millions, I imagine).
But I digress. The Clippers have seemingly weathered the crap storm after ripping off three straight wins. Except, if you’re a Clippers fan, you know that wins versus a discombobulated Memphis team coupled with two revenge victories against injury-depleted, subpar teams weren’t the same as the statement wins of the early season. Still, wins are wins and beggars can’t be choosers (unlike whomever won the world record lottery jackpot).
And, if you’re a NBA fan, you know this Portland game had Admiral Ackbar written all over it (“It’s a trap!”). This is a Portland team that, along with the Warriors, fanned the flames of a more than two week long debate on ESPN/HoopIdea about tanking after blowing up their teams at the trade deadline. On top of that, Portland announced LaMarcus Aldridge would miss the game due to a sprained elbow. I don’t know what proprietary analytics Portland employs, but I’m sure a stat indicated the Clippers are vulnerable to mediocre teams missing key players.
Nick Flynt wrote a terrific recap highlighting all the delicious Vinny Del Negro game-management frustrations. I would just like to add three things:
- This is the third time in the last six home games where the opposing team sought out Griffin’s man during crunch time for points (Hickson/PDX, Monroe/DET, Patterson/HOU). The three teams that didn’t eviscerate Blake’s defense? The D-League Hornets, Phoenix and the Grizzlies, all blowouts down the stretch.
- On the same day John Hollinger writes a pointed article outlining what ails the Clippers (basically perimeter defense, something every ClipperBlog writer has been yodeling about for more than a month), the Clippers allow Portland to shoot 50% from the field and 42.1% from distance (8-19).
- And finally, Luke Babbitt, Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet played MEANINGFUL minutes as backups in this game and didn’t kill the Blazers. Three first round busts that couldn’t get off the bench before the trade deadline played the Clippers even. I don’t even know what to think about that.
So why do I (and frankly, all the ClipperBlog writers) seem so sober, especially after winning four games in a row with the Clippers turning the proverbial corner? Well, I can’t speak for them, but DJ Foster’s tweet succinctly sums it up for me:
@fosterdj: “The West is weird. The Clippers are broken, but hell, so is everyone else that’s not OKC.”
The Clippers are not perfect but there is a genuine opportunity, in this particular season, to go deep into the playoff. Every West contender has their own set of warts no less egregious than the Clippers. And if they could make the Conference Finals? Dallas showed last year that if a jump-shooting team gets hot they can ride it through the playoffs. And that could be the Clippers as well, if they could shore up at least some of their defensive deficiencies. Blake has to be able to better defend OR the Clippers have to guard the 3-point shot better. Chris Paul and the Clippers offense can be so prolific that if things broke the right way they could seize this gift of a season. But they have to pick ONE area to improve defensively and, you know, succeed at it.
Then again, things breaking for the Clippers a la Dallas last year would leave a bigger conundrum. Would you rather the Clippers make the Western Conference Finals/NBA Finals this year and have Vinny Del Negro return next season or have them go out in the First/Second Round and bring back a team coached by Nate McMillan, Jerry Sloan, Mike D’Antoni, Rick Carlisle or a Van Gundy? A fan can dream though. A fan can dream.