Not much to see here folks. The Clippers got an emphatic win over an Eastern Conference bottom dweller, Jamal Crawford turned 33, Chris Paul went into full-on assassin mode in the third quarter, Nick “Swaggy P” Young made a fourth quarter cameo to the chagrin of thousands of screaming Clipper fans, and there were… DUNKS. Just your average night in Lob City. Onto Last Call:
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
MVP: Chris Paul. Pesky and efficient, Paul seemed to have his nose in every play in a second half where the Clippers poured it on. Paul finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 5 steals.
X Factor: It was the other other guys doing work for the Clippers’ second unit, as former 76er Maalik Wayns and Ryan Hollins sparked the Clips with an 8-0 run in the second quarter that led to the beginning of the end.
Well that was … foolish. The Sixers had a puncher’s chance with the Clippers coming out lazy, but as per usual, a bevy of ill-advised mid-range shots sunk Philly’s offense to another poor offensive showing.
– D.J. Foster
Tweet of the Game
Nick Young’s missed 360 layup was by FAR my favorite play of the night. Never change.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) March 21, 2013
ClipperBlogLive’s Best Moment
The crew try out a new segment (WAFFR) and Jordan offers thoughtful, nuanced reviews of “Girls” and “Spring Breakers.”
How many teams can say their 6-10 power forward threw not one, but two off-the-dribble alley-oops to their center?
Check Your Messages
Heimer’s Crystal Ball
There was something strangely unsatisfying about the Clipper bench-led 10-0 run to open the second quarter. At first glance, it had all the hallmarks of a classic Lob Mob effort: swarming defense, fast breaks off forced mistakes, even an undersized guard standing in to take a hard charge.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Tribe Called Bench… just the subs du jour. And while it’s fun to watch Ryan Hollins lope up-and-down the court like with the awkward enthusiasm of an over-caffeinated baby deer, and nice to see D-leaguer Maalik Wayns take advantage of his brief opportunity… in the end, so what? Come May, neither one of them will see the floor.
The team’s hope coming out of the All-Star break was to integrate Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, continue to reap the benefits of Lamar Odom’s progress, and fine-tune the rotations and the defense heading into the playoffs. Instead, injuries have forced Vinny Del Negro to mix-and-match on a nightly basis, resulting in unfamiliar line-ups, unpredictable rotations, and uneven basketball.
Clearly, a full-strength Clipper team is capable of winning a series out of the 5-slot, and the team has been wise to prioritize strength over seed. But the real cost of the Clips’ recent injury woes has been the way it seems to have plateaued the team, stemming the almost night-by-night progress we saw earlier in the season.
There are still plenty of unanswered questions about these Clippers. Can they execute consistently in the half-court? Does the defense’s second-half downtick represent a return to the mean or a lengthy aberration, owing in large part to units that simply haven’t played enough minutes together to get comfortable? More and more, it’s looking like these questions will only be answered on the fly, in the playoffs.
Blake Starts Slow, Finishes Strong
From the get-go, I made a point to keep an eye on Blake Griffin in pick-and-rolls because he was matched up with Thaddeus Young. Young is one of the better pick-and-roll defenders in the league, with the footwork and length to hedge and trap the ball carrier, while also having the quickness to recover to the rolling big man, making him a tough nut to crack for the Clippers’ offense.
Philly managed to defend Griffin effectively in the first half, even when Young left the game with two quick fouls. Blake picks up a lot of easy layups and dunks when he slips the screen and catches a pocket pass on the move towards the rim, but the Sixers did a solid job of shading their rotations back towards the middle of the floor even before Griffin got into position to receive that pass. In the 2nd quarter, the Clippers went as far as just avoiding Thaddeus Young in the pick-and-roll altogether – they stopped using Griffin as a screener and instead isolated him on the block. This proved frustrating for Griffin, as Young would deny the entry pass and Griffin multiple times gave up on the play when the pass never came. When he was able to get the ball, he attacked the rim a little too recklessly and forced some bad shots – he was just 1-for-5 from inside the paint in the first half.
Griffin’s game opened up a bit in the second half – he stopped forcing those bad shots and instead found the open man, picking up six assists on the night, most either at the rim or threes. The Clippers ran a few double ball-screen sets with Griffin and Jordan as the screeners that opened up a lot of space for Paul to penetrate the lane. Griffin’s energy also picked up (which was a serious issue in the first half), especially in transition, and it helped blow the game open.
Going forward, Griffin needs to be more patient in isolation plays and when he receives the ball following a screen-roll. This has actually been an area of large improvement for Griffin this year – he’s become much better at recognizing rotations before they occur, beating teams with the pass when they do and with the dunk when they don’t. However, games like tonight show that even elite players can get frustrated (playing the second night of a back-to-back probably didn’t help either), and he still has work to do.
“Turn back the clock, big boy”
We’re four and a half minutes into the game. Jrue Holiday probes into the lane, completing a reverse layup, and the Clippers are down 12-4. The natives are getting restless, with the memories of last nights loss still fresh in their minds. Following the inbounds play, Holiday attempts to steal the ball from Chris Paul. Big mistake. Only a few beats later, Paul — adapting to the moment, as he seemingly always does — immediately hits the gas pedal. To his right, Willie Green is getting ready to spot up for a corner three-pointer. Instead, he looks to his left. On this particular occasion, Caron Butler would be taking flight against Spencer Hawes.
A great dunk is not just a great dunk. It is, in essence, an energizer. It says, “Hey, this is mine. I’m just taking what belongs to me — and maybe a little bit more.” Blake Griffin has taught fans that much. The Clippers outscored Philly 18-6 for the rest of the quarter. Butler may have finished the night with an average stat line (14 points, 6 rebounds) but he was a thorn in the side of the 76ers, constantly breathing life into the Clippers starting line up as if he were a paramedic.
I Miss Nick Young
At one point in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s blowout, Ralph Lawler looked at the court and realized who was standing on it.
“Oh!” he shouted as if he’d just seen an old friend. “Nick Young is in!”
Nick Young was in! And he didn’t disappoint.
(No, I will not calm down.)
In nine minutes, he chucked up eight shots – including the most adventurously entertaining miss of the night, a somewhat unnecessary 360 layup that never had a real chance at going in the hoop. Maybe we only got nine minutes of Young on Wednesday, but at least we got to see Swaggy being Swaggy and really, what’s better than that?
Is Paul better without Billups?
We did a little research to follow up on a question from ClipperBlog reader Ron about whether Chris Paul plays more aggressive and defers less when Billups isn’t in the lineup. We found some interesting numbers via NBAwowy.com:
When Paul plays with Billups, he scores 1.09 points per possession with a usage rate of 18.5 percent.
When Paul plays without Billups, he scores 1.13 points per possession with a usage rate of 23.9 percent.
There you have it — the gut feel backed up by the data. It’s a beautiful thing. Paul is definitely way more aggressive looking for his own shot without Billups, and he’s slightly more effective as well.
You can jump to solutions, but ain’t a thing going to change. So long as Billups is active, he’ll keep starting right next to Paul.
–Andrew Han and D.J. Foster
Wonky execution = easy points? Sure
During the second quarter, the Clippers ran a vaguely similar set to the one used when DeAndre dunked on Brandon Knight. “L” was a double screen on the right side with one big popping and the second diving to the rim for a lob.
In this set, though, Griffin sets up for a screen, except it’s much too far away and Holiday can easily avoid it. DeAndre runs in and basically sets a back screen on Griffin. Essentially, Griffin and Jordan don’t fulfill the intent, merely occupy the correct space.
Holiday easily goes around the double screen and Hawes contains the ball-handler, Paul. Thaddeus Young sticks close to the pop man, Griffin. Frankly, nothing about the set really works out. Except Paul drives deep enough to push Hawes down and Holiday doesn’t bump the diving man, Jordan, who now has a clear path for a layup.
The play really shouldn’t work. And yet it does. But the execution of this set, despite the easy two points, is exactly the type of thing critics will point out when the playoffs arrive and the opponents are the Nuggets, Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder, and not the 76ers.