[Ed note: Look, clearly the optimal way to consume Clipper Blog Live, our flagship post-game video roundtable, is live. Live is, after all, the third word of the title. But, hard as it is for us to accept, we know that not everyone has 90 minutes to watch the show live (after, presumably, already taking 3 hours to watch the game itself). Or perhaps some people simply prefer their video blog condensed, transcribed, and ready to print. Does that mean they shouldn’t have access to the content? Of course not.
Whatever the reason, we present for you a CBL highlights package of our analyst’s most salient points.]
On Vinny Del Negro, the Spurs’ 24-0 run, and the unofficial death of the 2012 season:
JORDAN HEIMER: I’m wearing my sunglasses to remind myself that I live in Southern California, I’m going to a BBQ later, I live a good life… That said, that was one of the more frustrating basketball games I’ve ever seen. After a fast start for the Clippers, the Spurs took control of the game with a 24-0 run in the third quarter. Honestly, I have never seen a coach stand passively by and watch a season die the way Vinny Del Negro did in this game.
24-0. He took one time out. He made two substitutions – and those were Mo Williams for Randy Foye and then Randy Foye back for Mo Williams. We didn’t see Eric Bledsoe. We didn’t see Nick Young, who has shown a real ability to understand when it’s appropriate to create his own shot. I was standing in front of my television screaming. And it only got worse. Vinny let the Spurs play Hack-a-Reggie in the final minutes of the game because “you might not want to waste a time out” to pull Reggie out of the game. MIGHT NOT WANT TO WASTE A TIME OUT?!? There are four minutes left in the season! You have a guy in who cannot make free throws and you’re trying to come back by 10 points. It was a terrible game, a complete mismanagement and I wonder if it ultimately costs VDN his job.
ANDREW HAN: The thing that was most comical about the Reggie Evans thing is that everyone knows that at 2 minutes left those fouls become ball out-of-bounds [and not free throws], and right around 2 minutes VDN sends Bobby Simmons to the scorer’s table to check in for Reggie – when it’s completely useless. And then he had to call Bobby Simmons back – maybe because someone mentioned that.
And no Nick Young? Nick Young has gone 16-22 from 3 in the playoffs, so yeah… [note: Nick Young was 15-25 entering Game 3]
JH: Yeah, there was a real irony to Vinny’s interview with Lisa Salter’s after the third, when he said the problem was “not enough scoring,” as if there was nothing he could do about that.
DJ FOSTER: Yeah, those time outs really bailed us out down 12 with 45 seconds left to play. It was crazy because usually I think calling time outs is one of Vinny’s strengths as a game manager. So for him to completely collapse like this in a winnable game by not breaking up the run with time outs and the right substitutions is really crazy.
AH: And contrast it with Popovich on the opposite bench. At one point Chris Paul hit two consecutive shots and Pop called a time out immediately. A 4-0 run is not acceptable. And on the other side the Clippers had VDN, who needed to save time outs to get a hotdog in the final minute or something.
DJ: Looking back, I think we can say the Memphis series was almost the perfect series for Vinny Del Negro. It was just going out there, motivating, getting guys to play hard, and out grinding. It was never about execution, or offensive system, but just who is more physical. Vinny won that series as a coach over Lionel Hollins. Again Gregg Popovich you can’t just put the best players on the floor and expect to be OK.
CHARLIE WIDDOES: Especially if you don’t even put the best players on the floor. [General laughter]
On Eric Bledsoe:
DJ: No Bledsoe? He’s been the Clippers best player in this series. And he barely played in favor of Mo Williams, who, yeah, hit a couple shots – but what else does he give you?
JH: And Chris Paul was ineffective in the second half. After a first half that was not great, but efficient, lots of assists, Paul had trouble again in the second when S.A. threw a harder trap at him. He was losing his dribble, coming up short on shots. And Eric Bledsoe still gets just 6, 7 minutes in the second half.
DJ: Thirteen minutes of game time before garbage time.
JH: He made a couple of out of control plays in the first half, and I feel like that’s all it takes to make Vinny not trust him again. Remember that one game in Memphis where Bledsoe got a tech in the first half and didn’t play again for the rest of the game?
DJ: I feel like Vinny’s line of thinking is so simple. Like “Hey. We can’t make shots. We need someone who is a shooter.” No! Put in the guy who can affect the game with his defense, and get offensive rebounds, and make cuts, do all these valuable things. But no. It’s like “The shots aren’t falling. We better stay with Randy Foye. He can shoot.”
On Blake Griffin:
DJ: Offensively, he was the only guy doing anything. That first quarter was all him. We beat up Blake for his defense, but he played as well as he can play in the first half. He attacked single coverages, he hit some shots, he passed out of double teams. He just didn’t have the help that he needed.
On the Basketball Machine that is the San Antonio Spurs:
CW: The Spurs have shown they have a system, and that system is built to weather adversity. Well, the Clippers don’t have a system. They have a guy named Chris Paul. That’s not a system. Michael Jordan may have been the greatest player of all time, but he ran the triangle, a system that is very clear. The Clippers have nothing of that nature. None whatsoever. When the Spurs went on their run, it was all system for them, and all isolations for the Clippers.
JH: We’ve said all season that the system was just Chris Paul, but I thought we were using hyperbole! Pop Quiz – you’re on a 12-0 run, your season is going down the drain, you call a time out, you get to run your best play to create a good look, what do you run? Answer: Nothing.
CW: I hate to say I told you so, but whenever Chris would have those game where he would take over part of me would not get excited, because that’s not sustainable. Those were regular season games that frankly didn’t matter, and you see what happens against a team that is a good team.
DJ: They rode Blake early, he was magnificent, and then they blew it, as they usually do. And when they tried to turn it over to Chris Paul late, Popovich was smart enough to take the ball out of his hands, and put it in the hands of Reggie Evans. And what does VDN counter with? Nothing.
CW: Literally nothing.
JH: Jeff Van Gundy is so diplomatic. He’ll say “This is a real significant decision” to keep Reggie Evans in.
CW: We’re almost being too kind in saying the system is Chris Paul, because there is a rationale to designing a system around a player that great. But the system is really “whoever has the ball in his hands,” and that just happens to be Chris Paul most often.
AH: I don’t trust Vinny to develop DeAndre and Eric Bledsoe. The Clippers have put $43 million dollars into DeAndre, and I haven’t seen him improve. Vinny’s rap coming out of Chicago is that he developed talent.
DJ: He plaaaaaayed talent.
CW: All you have to do is look at OKC and see a coach who isn’t a tactician, but he develops players, which is way more important.
JH: Look at the Spurs and the Thunder. Pop gets minutes out of rookies and out of players he has created into something useful. You can’t tell me Trey Thompkins couldn’t have given you something in this series. I love what Reggie and K-Mart have done, but you can’t consistently get plus minutes from older, scrappy guys who can’t create a shot.
On Player Development Moving Forward:
JH: I think an argument for bringing in an elite coaching staff, and not worrying so much about, you know “Will the stars be able to get along with, say, a Stan Van Gundy?” is that this team is limited going forward by the Caron and DJ contracts. They can’t sign another big piece. They don’t have draft picks. So you need to have player development. If you can’t bring in a staff that puts a system in place on defense, or teaches DeAndre how to be a 36 minute a night center, what are you offering fans for next year?
DJ: That’s the argument with Vinny – that the young, talented guys haven’t progressed the way they should have. I think Blake is defensively worse than he was his rookie year. Trey Thompkins doesn’t even see the floor.
CW: We just got back from the press conferences where Duncan and Parker both talked about how they knew the Clippers would come out with a run. They talked about weathering the storm, and whittling it down in the second quarter. And, as has happened in every game this series, they came out in the third quarter and just out-executed the Clippers.
Someone asked Blake what he’s learned from the Spurs and Duncan and he talked about how they are prepared for everything. They’ve seen every defense.
AH: Did Vinny mention not playing Bledsoe during the run?
CW: You know, it’s just so much bigger than that. I mean, we all agree that when the other team is on a 24-0 run you should probably play your best defensive player, but it’s just not about that anymore. The people who are in charge of firing him obviously know what he is at this point. A small group of people – Donald Sterling, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin – are probably going to decide his fate. But watching Vinny just standing on the sidelines with no answer…
CW: Gregg Popovich – who never says anything – said, “I know Chris Paul is not 100 percent. I know that kid. I know how he can play.” You don’t get Pop to say that unless he almost feels bad. He knows that they dodged a bullet, because Chris Paul is not right.
Vinny has mentioned that Blake’s injury gets worse as the game goes on, and, talking to a bunch of people around here, it seems like that is indeed the medical diagnosis.
JH: Maybe the injuries were a blessing in disguise. Without Blake and Paul to bring the miracle of their God-given abilities to the series and steal a few games, we have to pay attention to the warning Charlie Widdoes and the Widdoeses of the world have been harping on all season. Maybe it’s not as clear that the Clippers have no system. No plan for possessions, games, long-term development. It’s almost instructive to see how hapless this team is without its stars.
JOVAN BUHA: It’s been a two-man team all season.
On the Meaning of the Season:
AH: Is there any substantial difference between getting swept by the Spurs and losing Game 7 to Memphis? Does getting swept wipe out all the good feelings from the Memphis victory? They’ve been pretty bad losses.
CW: This was about what I said the Clippers season would be when they made the trade. They would win a series and then lose to a better team. Which they did. Was this team better than expectations? What were the expectations? This was a flawed team with some great players. You can win a round, but then you look like this.
DJ: They set a baseline with that first round win. And we learned some things. They showed their resilience, that they’re a tough team. They went to the Grind House, and they lost a leg, and they lost a hip [flexor], and now they are in the slaughterhouse with the Spurs. But ultimately, the Memphis series taught us some thing. To learn how to dump someone you have to be dumped. That’s what this series is all about. Learning about how a team does it over four games, regardless of who is hot.
JH: Charlie is looking at it in a very realpolitik way. But if they had lost Game 7, we have to read an entire offseason of articles about “It’s the Clippers,” “They lost after being up 3-1,” and people questioning their heart, and character and so on. Now you don’t have to question their ability to win a tough series. That was important.
DJ: The focus is on the right things now, on the things that they can fix. It’s not wasted on “Oh they have to escape from being the Clippers of the past.” It’s more like we know what we have, and now they need to go that extra step. Get a strategist, get someone who calls a time out and pulls Reggie Evans out of the game, and makes changes during a 24-0 run. These are the problems. That Game 7 in Memphis is still critical for the franchise.
I think the players are learning something. If Chris Paul and Blake go to Donald Sterling and say “We love Vinny. We can win with Vinny, keep Vinny,” then Donald Sterling is going to keep Vinny. It ultimately comes down to Sterling. He makes the calls. And I’m not sure Paul and Griffin will vouch for Vinny anymore. I think they see they need more than Vinny is capable of giving them.
CW: If anyone learns anything, it’s the players.
JB: They need to look at film from the first half and try to recreate that magic and that energy. Figure out how they didn’t score for eight and a half minutes. Look at who was taking good shots and who wasn’t.
JH: I think being up or down 3-0 becomes mental. A team either comes out and fights or they don’t. And I think the Clippers are done. I’m left with two images from the ABC broadcast today. One was Gregg Popovich, legs sprawled out in front of him, chilling on the bench, laughing it up with Tony Parker at halftime. A man down ten points without a worry in the world. And the contrasting image of that was during that last time out Vinny called – you know, that time out he had been saving – no one was listening to him. Blake wasn’t in the huddle. Chris Paul wasn’t in the huddle. He was a man talking to no one. Clippers lose tomorrow.
DJ: I don’t care if they win or lose tomorrow, this series is done. I want to see lots of Eric Bledsoe, lots of DeAndre Jordan, for better or worse. Or hey, maybe look at the analytics and play the lineups that have done the best. Let’s see if we’re just full of it. The numbers lie. Let’s just play the best lineups and show the team will still lose. Get crazy. Throw some things against the wall. What do you have to lose.
CW: We’ll have lots of time to talk big picture in the offseason, which will start probably tomorrow evening. But just remembering the way Vinny Del Negro spoke in that press conference, he was just so defeatist in terms of how to stop the Spurs and, basically, how you can’t. [Vinny said] “You can get on the shooters, but it opens things up for Duncan. And if you go there, it opens things up for Tony Parker driving.” And for it’s like, it’s not so obvious that they need to get good looks. Obviously they’re a great offensive team, maybe the best, but you can stop it by stopping penetration, and blowing up pick and rolls. The basic things that start an offense, you don’t have to let them happen to you. So it doesn’t compute when the coach basically says they are going to get torched. That’s just never the case in the second round of the playoffs, because there’s a reason both teams are there.