Vinny Del Negro said “hopefully we’ll learn from this.”
He called tonight’s loss to the Warriors, who were without Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush, a “step back,” and added that he “was disappointed with the way we came out.”
To hear him tell it after the game, his team dug itself a hole early and was just unable to climb out by the end.
There is also a suggestion that the team might have taken the opponent for granted, which is obviously inexcusable, if true. Even if not true, it doesn’t seem like something a coach should want to be said about his team after three games.
We got outworked tonight, there’s no question about it. If you look at the statistics, they had 16 offensive rebounds. They out-rebounded us, got more shots. We got to the free throw line plenty. It was a physical game.
But we put ourselves in a hole, and everything down the stretch, execution-wise has to be perfect. And if it doesn’t go that way, now you’re having to follow them and chase them. So they, uh, points in the paint. I think they had eight fastbreak points in the 1st quarter alone.
You know, we were just chasing them all night. They came out, they were the aggressor. But that’s what you get. There are no easy games in this league. If you don’t come and bring the energy and the focus and the desire…No matter who you’re playing. Sometimes you can get away with it, but more times than not, it’s gonna get you.
Some things that worked in the first two games did not work tonight, but mostly, the Clippers didn’t play enough defense. That’s the issue.
You could question the wisdom of feeding Blake Griffin when he had Carl Landry on him, but he finished with 19 and 11 and went 11-16 from the free throw line, so going 4-12 from the floor wasn’t the problem.
The Clippers ran into another good team, and their margin for error shrunk.
All of a sudden, the 26 minutes of nothing you get from Willie Green (16 minutes, 1-4 shooting, 2 points, 1 turnover) and Lamar Odom (10 minutes, 1-5 shooting, 2 points, 1 turnover, 1 rebound) begin to cost you.
When Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack combined for 56 points and 18 rebounds, you appreciate how much you miss by leaving Eric Bledsoe on the bench for 33 of 48 available minutes.
Chris Paul had a funny night: 3-9 from the floor, 19-20 from the free throw line, 27 points, 10 assists and 5 turnovers. (D.J. Foster tells me he is the only player since 1984-85 –that’s as far back as it goes– to score at least 27 points on 3 or less made field goals). His charging call with 6 seconds to go, on what would have been a made layup, sealed the deal for the Warriors.
But it wasn’t nearly the reason the Clippers lost. They gave up 114 points, and within close reach were some alternatives that might have done better.
The challenge of managing expectations of a roster that expects to play will not go away. Unless something changes, there will even be more nights like tonight to put it right back under the microscope.
What are we expecting a team whose best attribute is veteran know-how to learn from getting outrebounded by 15?
As the coach said, the Clippers can get by on talent when so many things are going well. And, you know, Jamal Crawford is averaging 25 a game. So through three games, things are going pretty damn well.
And they probably are a pretty great team. But at this point, they aren’t playing at full strength.
Vinny Del Negro has players on the bench who can help him, and yet players who are hurting him play. His starting wings combine for one (1) rebound, and his point guard — perhaps feeling the pressure to create offense to compensate for Willie Green’s shortcomings — battles through a 3-9 night shooting, with five turnovers.
Meanwhile, the majority of Bledsoe’s 15 minutes come apart from Paul, Griffin or DeAndre Jordan. Instead, he’s asked to create magic out of a pick-and-roll with Odom, who just stands there.
The Clippers have not maximized their resources, and the result is probably indicative of how that will turn out if continued over the course of a season. They’ve won more than they have lost, and probably also lost more than they should’ve lost.
It’s still early. What they showed in the first two games is important. As is what they showed tonight.
I guess what’s most important is how a team that was supposed to know better responds after its coach questions its effort. In the third game of the season.