Los Angeles Clippers at Charlotte Bobcats
Time Warner Cable Arena
4:00 p.m. PST
January 22, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Why has the Bobcats defense struggled so much after such a hot start?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): I don’t think there was top-10 defensive talent there to begin with, but serious injuries to stout perimeter defenders Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor certainly haven’t helped. Perhaps the Bobcats were playing a tad over their heads, and have now regressed toward their defensive mean.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): A multitude of reasons. Early season effort slowly diminished at the same time opponents started to realize the Bobcats were a playoff-worthy team. The scouting report is out and the miscues are becoming more and more frequent. Inexperienced teams are bound to deal with turbulence of this ilk. More importantly, the Bobcats lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, defensive stalwart, to injury. Having him as a security blanket against the NBA’s best scorers allowed Charlotte’s big men relief in the middle. Not so much anymore.
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): Since his arrival last summer, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford has touted a commitment to defense. It’s not surprising Charlotte has exceeded expectations, then. But the season is long and full of terrors: starters Jeff Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered injuries, the competition has stiffened, and in the mire of mid-season basketball, the Bobcats have reverted to ingrained non-winning habits (slow transition defense, conceding open looks, allowing offensive rebounds). Franchise overhauls take a while.
2. What changes most about the Clippers with Matt Barnes in the starting lineup?
Buha: The team’s spacing. Dudley was Redick’s primary partner whenever the Clippers ran their floppy actions, and also served as a deadly spot-up threat in both half-court sets and transition. Barnes, meanwhile, is always moving – usually cutting and curling off screens toward the baseline – which will create more open looks for Redick (like in Detroit on Monday). Defensively, Barnes is quicker and more physical than Dudley, and has probably been the better one-on-one stopper against normal sized wings (LeBron and Josh Smith have given Barnes trouble).
Sohi: Barnes didn’t make much of a difference against Josh Smith last night but alas, I trust the process— he’ll improve on the defensive end. What worries me is the offense. Barnes was off from everywhere, including the 3-point line and the rim. The Clippers offense is usually a well-oiled machine and Barnes felt like the disjointed bolt. Hopefully, Doc Rivers sees this and gets Barnes cutting to the rim and disrupting the defense in more unorthodox ways.
Laubhan: Doc Rivers says he made the switch with defense in mind. That makes sense. While Jared Dudley is a useful offensive complement to J.J. Redick and a functional defender, he isn’t nearly as consistent or diverse a defensive player as Barnes. Barnes will present more of a challenge to opposing wings; in that sense, he’s the Clippers’ Andre Iguodala. Honestly, though, I’m more interested in seeing Barnes’ cutting in tandem with Redick’s movement. The starting unit is going to be really active.
3. How will Hedo Turkoglu fit into Doc Rivers’ rotation?
Buha: I think he can carve out five to 10 minutes per game in the backup power forward role that Antawn Jamison was supposed to occupy. He’s not terrible defensively – he actually is in the right position a lot – but his lack of speed and athleticism heavily limits his mobility (no pun intended). Turkoglu has yet to regain his shooting form, and if he can do that, he’d became the clear-cut ninth man. He’s better than Stephen Jackson, at least.
Sohi: Scarcely, I hope. This team isn’t going to get far with Turkoglu playing regularly but that’s what the burden of injuries will do to a roster. Ideally, he provides some ball-handling relief on the second unit until Chris Paul returns. Then, on a healthy Clippers roster, he rides the pine.
Laubhan: It’s only been five years since Turkoglu co-led Orlando to the Finals, and Hedo is “just” 34, but if this guy plays more than 8-10 minutes per game as a second or third facilitator for the bench, the Clippers might be in trouble. Don’t get me wrong – I like Hedo, and I think he’ll help the second unit be less reliant on Jamal Crawford’s solo freestyling, and he’s probably an upgrade on Stephen Jackson, but he isn’t the frontcourt reinforcement Los Angeles really needs.