Los Angeles Clippers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
7:30 p.m. PST
March 1, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. If Anthony Davis is so good defensively, then why does the Pelicans defense struggle so much?
Jeremy Conlin, Hickory High, (@jeremy_conlin): Well, the rest of the roster leaves quite a bit to be desired, especially on the perimeter. Davis is an elite defender around the basket, but he can’t cover up every mistake. Exacerbating the issue is coach Monty Williams, who has never been quite able to assemble a cohesive defensive system.
Jack Winter, Hardwood Paroxysm, (@armstrongwinter): Just because Davis has feet like a guard and arms like a pterodactyl doesn’t mean he defends like prime Kevin Garnett. It takes years of study to develop the nuance necessary to be the back-line defensive fulcrum that Davis will eventually become. Quite simply, he’s a long, long way from that right now; people just don’t believe it because he looks so good getting off the bus. I guess leading the league in blocks contributes to that misconception, too.
Aaron Fischman, (@aaronhartf): Opponents are often able to pull Davis away from the basket and subsequently attack the rim. As a team, the Pelicans allow opponents to convert 62.6 percent of their shots in the restricted area; only Sacramento, Minnesota, Dallas and Cleveland have been worse. Meanwhile, they foul way too much, allow too many corner 3’s and don’t force enough inefficient mid-range shots. A large part of the problem stems from the other big men’s defensive inadequacies. Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey and Greg Stiemsma are a far cry from Robin Lopez, whom the Pelicans traded away.
2. Over/under 30 points for Blake Griffin.
Conlin: Blake is averaging 30.5 points over his last 10 games, so 30 is right around where I’d expect him to be. New Orleans is a poor defensive team, which might mean he’d go over, but he’s also matched up against Anthony Davis, which might mean he goes under. Team defense is more meaningful against elite scorers than individual defense, though, so I’ll go over.
Winter: Over. A green Anthony Davis and the supposedly live, extremely lithe bodies of Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey aren’t exactly David West and Roy Hibbert. It’s over, and easily.
Fischman: Slightly over. Jamal Crawford’s calf strains means the Clippers will go to Griffin more often. Before BG’s four straight sub-30-point games, he posted 35 points or more in six of the previous seven. Free throws help a lot, too. If Griffin can get to the line about 10 times against New Orleans – he’s averaging 11.2 free-throw attempts per game in February and took 14 last Monday in New Orleans – topping 30 shouldn’t be that difficult.
3. True or false: Danny Granger will be a net positive for the Clippers.
Conlin: False. It’s been two years since he’s been a worthwhile NBA player. They will conceivably use him as a stretch four at times, but I don’t see any reason why he’d fill that role any better than Jared Dudley, who himself has been a big disappointment this season. Granger has the ability to get hot and change a game or two, but on the whole he’ll be a net negative.
Winter: True? Granger’s a standup citizen and offers lineup versatility and shooting any team could use – in theory. But he’s been flat-out bad in his limited floor-time season, and the Clippers are deep enough that he might not crack the rotation. Who does Granger play over? It might take an unlikely best-case scenario – better shooting, better movement – for that to become a question Doc Rivers even gets to ponder.
Fischman: True. Granger used to be the man in Indiana. Through injuries over the past couple years, his shot has regressed, but he’s still a solid defender who possesses good length and even better instincts. As long as he doesn’t hoist up too many shots – the Clippers don’t need much scoring from him – and sticks to playing pesky defense, it’ll work. In short, a smart Granger equates to a net positive, and if the 30-year-old veteran covets a title like I think he does, he’ll play smart.
Bonus tidbit: In 2005, when Granger was taken 17th overall by Indiana, the Clippers drafted Yaroslav Korolev five picks earlier. He made 13 field goals his entire career.