But it wasn’t a trap. If such a thing as a trap game exists, they don’t exist back-to-back. And they certainly don’t exist four games into a season, as Charlie Widdoes states at the end of last night’s ClipperBlog Live. Either the Clippers were ill prepared or some glaring weakness are being exposed. Let’s break things down into manageable pieces:
Looking at Cleveland’s shot chart, the Clippers were actually pretty reasonable in three of four shooting areas:
Los Angeles forced a below average 17-41 (41.5%) completion rate at the rim, 2-6 (33%) on shots 5ft-15ft and 7-16 (43.7%) for mid-range shots 16ft-23ft. But the 3-pointers is where it gets comically bad. The Cavs were 14-22 (63.6%) from deep, with Dion Waiters an unconscious 7-11.
And it seems like Kyrie Irving lit up the Clippers, especially with his hot, early start and late, clutch 3-pointer. But he was reasonably contained quarters 2-4 until that last second 3 (8-23FG, 10 assists). The Clippers were able to funnel penetration into their bigs, as evidenced by a gaudy 13 total blocks, but were subsequently unable to either a)recover back to the spot up shooter or b)rotate down and box out the bigs that the Clippers’ interior defenders left. Which leads us to:
Los Angeles was a top 7 team in rebounding rate last season, but had early struggles prior to Reggie Evans suiting up. And that problem is rearing its ugly head again early this season. The Clippers have been outrebounded by an average of 6.5/game this season. Tonight, Cleveland was +5 in rebounding and Matt Barnes was the most effective Clippers rebounder at 8. It’s difficult to win games losing the glass game.
The Clippers have been resoundingly pummeled in the field goal attempts category. They’ve only had more shots once in the first four games (v. Lakers) and the gap has been double-digit in the other three. The Cavaliers were +18 in field goal attempts tonight. And even though they were much worse in field goal percentage (43.5% v. LAC’s 52.7%), because the Cavs had more opportunities to shoot they were able to make up for their inefficiency.
Minutes by Half
The Clippers and Cavs both scored 51 points in the second half, which means the margin of victory was the first half differential of 7 points. One thing I noticed in the minutes split was that all the Clippers received approximately the same number of minutes in either half except for two: Willie Green and Eric Bledsoe. Their minutes were basically inverted – 1st half Green: 16m, Bledsoe: 8m | 2nd half Green: 5m, Bledsoe: 18m.
It’s a little unclear as to why these problems persist. Rebounding generally shouldn’t be an issue; Griffin and Jordan are both strong individual rebounders. Last year, guarding the 3-point line was an issue and it seems like it could be again. But like Chris Paul said after the Warriors loss, it’s early. Let’s just hope most of this is sorted out before it becomes too late.