If the Clippers lose Game 2, I should probably stay away from Twitter.
Sometimes, it’s hard to be rational. But when you try to educate, rationality becomes necessary. So I had to gather myself before the Game 1 ClipperBlog Live, and look at the match as if I weren’t a Clippers fan at all.
Blake Griffin played just 19 minutes. The Clippers’ defense looked worse than it has in months. The Clips probably won’t blitz the pick-and-roll in the same fashion for the rest of the series. Double-teaming in the post will likely go away. We’ll see more than 23 minutes of Matt Barnes, and we may see J.J. Redick closing games instead of Darren Collison. And with all those troubles plaguing them in Game 1, the Clippers still lost only by four points. There are plenty of reasons why a non-Clippers fan could’ve had the exact same prediction at the end of Game 1 as he did at the start of the series. And that’s how I had to look at it: as a non-Clippers fan. Purely as an analyst, even though the Memphian feel this one had made it the most frustrating 48 Clipper minutes since Game 6 of last year’s first round.
But if the Clippers lose Game 2, my mind doesn’t stand a chance.
So let’s ignore Game 1 for just a bit and revert to the 57-win regular season, because we’ve got some questions to answer:
Can someone write something on Jamal Crawford’s four-point plays?
I can’t even think about how long I’ve been sitting on this question. It’s been at least a couple months, and I keep blitzing my brain to find an answer, but there’s really nothing substantial. There are theories, sure. But is there any definitive reason as to why Crawford has 41 (41!!!) career four-point plays when Reggie Miller, the man who has the second-most all-time, has just 24 in his entire career?
The answer may just be, “Because he’s Jamal Crawford, damnit!”
Ultimately, Crawford is so good at creating contact, and then selling it. Look at his most-recent four-point play, the one on the final day of the regular season. Crawford was barely touched, but like Miller, he sells it so well. He goes down like Ray Lewis is coming at him every time.
In some ways, you could argue Crawford goads defenders as well as any other offensive player in the league. I asked a couple of people affiliated with NBA teams about Crawford’s four-point-play propensity, and they mentioned that players don’t want to get embarrassed when they’re guarding the guy with one of the best handles in the NBA. So naturally, they overcompensate. If a defender is thinking about Jamal nutmegging him or completely crossing him up, maybe he would be more prone to get caught out of position, and thus, commit a bad foul. Add in exactly how good Crawford is at finishing plays after contact (which might just be because he has so much practice shooting off-balance shots in game situations) and you’ve got yourself the best four-point play man of all time.
Is Jamal Crawford a superhero or just your hero?
– ClipperBlog staffer Seth Partnow
Didn’t we just settle this? He’s a superhero, clearly. He’s Slipperyman.
What happened to Playoff CP3 we saw in NOLA? Will he appear this year or is he gone forever?
I officially love this question.
There’s this narrative we perpetuate that Paul drifts through the regular season on 80 to 90 percent, takes his game up to 100 percent on some nights, and then goes to full force for the postseason. But do the numbers truly back that up?
Paul’s postseason PER (25.4) is almost perfectly in line with that of the regular season (25.6), but really, when we talk about CP3’s postseason success, we’re referring to his aggressiveness moreso than anything else. So, it shouldn’t be all that surprising when we see his usage rate goes up about three percentage points in his postseason career. But with the Clippers, that scoring is coming at the expense of distributing.
Paul’s assist rate has dropped to 36 percent in his Clipper playoff career, down about 10 percentage points from his regular-season, career average. But there are practical reasons for that. The Clippers always ran the roll-the-ball-out-there-and-let-CP3-do-his-thing offense, and as we learned and heard seemingly a million times over his first two seasons in LA, that doesn’t work well against defenses like Memphis and San Antonio. So teams stifled Paul, turned him into an individual scorer, and won games while the Clippers’ best facilitator stopped creating for his teammates at an elite level. And because of that, it’d be prudent to see how the rest of the first Doc Rivers postseason goes before we fully answer this question.
When will the Clippers reach their prime under Doc? Is that 2 years from now?
What are the biggest potential moves that the Clips are facing this offseason (if the postseason goes fairly smooth)?
The lack of a third big man issue is still very much present. Glen Davis can play eight minutes in the playoffs and be just fine, but we saw first-hand in Game 1 that the Clippers can’t recover if one of their starting bigs gets into foul trouble. It’s a serious problem veiled by Griffin’s and Jordan’s lack of foul trouble in the regular season.
22 minutes from the Large Infant isn’t going to cut it in a playoff game. Midway through that contest, as Seth Partnow pointed out on ClipperBlog Live on Saturday, Golden State switched around its offense and started to bring over DeAndre Jordan’s man to start setting ball screens. That got Jordan away from the rim, turning Baby into both a rim protector and rebounder. That strategy makes the Clippers about as successful as my attempt to popularize shortening “Big Baby” just to “Baby.” It ain’t gonna work, homie.
That’s part of why the Warriors out-rebounded the Clips 48 to 42 in Game 1. Davis can pull down boards on his own, but he’s not clearing out one side of the floor so his teammates can grab any. He’s not going to protect the paint, and his defensive awareness…leaves something to be desired. (Check out this fantastic Haralabos Voulgaris post from Sunday about Baby’s overzealous double-teaming in the post for further reference.)
It’s not that this Clippers team can’t win. It’s just not in the best position to do so if it don’t have a quality big who can provide competent minutes if Jordan or Griffin picks up a fourth foul in the third quarter. The Clippers probably can’t “peak” until they have that part of the roster filled, even if they are technically championship contenders right now. So heading into the offseason, that’s got to be a priority no matter the result of this year’s playoffs. And speaking of the results…
What’s your prediction for how far the Clips go this year?
Beating OKC in Round 2 without homecourt isn’t exactly a walk in the park. So is the season a failure if the Clips lose?
Turbo, you nailed it.
At some point, we have to distinguish the difference between a disappointment and a failure. It almost seems like there are three top-two teams in the West this year: Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Clippers. If any of them failed to make the Western Conference Finals, the season would have to be a disappointment, but that’s what happens when the three best regular-season teams all reside in the West. In the end, someone’s not getting invited to the wedding.
So, no. Losing a close series to the Thunder on the road couldn’t possibly be a disappointment, especially considering a) how strong OKC looks right now and b) that this Thunder team may go on to win it all regardless of who stands in its way. But the Clippers would have a right to be disappointed, and so would their fans. With Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, expectations don’t necessarily need to adjust to championship-or-bust, but goals probably should, and falling short of your goal is always a disappointment.
My pre-playoffs pick was that the Clippers would drop in seven games to the Thunder in round 2. Game 1 didn’t change anything on that front. Unfortunately, the Clippers’ fate may have been decided when they failed to snatch the No. 2 seed from OKC at the end of the regular season. It could be that close.
What happened to ‘Cuse in the tourney?
– ClipperBlog staffer Seth Partnow
Are you really going to rant about Syracuse in this mailbag? Please say yes.
– ClipperBlog staffer Seth Partnow
How many more annoying questions can I come up with in the next few days?
– ClipperBlog staffer Seth Partnow
You know what? I’m taking the bait. We’re talking college hoops.
This is what happens when your offense is based around two types of plays and two types of plays only: Tyler Ennis pick-and-roll distribution and Trevor Cooney threes. So what did teams do late in the year? They blitzed Ennis on the screen-and-roll and ran Cooney off the three-point line. And ‘Cuse had nothing. No response. No adjustment. Just nothing.
The roll men couldn’t really create on their own because Rakeem Christmas and Baye-Moussa Keita don’t have touch around the rim or the ability to score more than three feet from the basket. And so what did ‘Cuse do? They went to C.J. Fair, which is all fine and good for those who think Fair is a deserving honorable-mention All-American, but doesn’t really work – you know – if you want to score points.
Here’s the thing about C.J. Fair: He’s a really good mid-range shooter. I don’t say that in a condescending tone. He’s remarkably accurate. But that’s all he does, and therein lies the problem with our analysis of college hoops vs. basketball in the pros.
It’s strange. There’s this whole faction of people in the NBA who talk about how Andrea Bargnani is an ineffective offensive player, and that group is getting bigger and bigger. He doesn’t make threes, but he’s happy to take them. He’s efficient from mid-range, even though that phrase is somewhat of an oxymoron, and he doesn’t get himself to the rim as often as anyone would like him to do so. So Bargs finishes his first year in New York with a 44-28-82 shooting line, a 51 percent true shooting, and once we factor in his subpar (but highly entertaining) pick-and-roll defense, we realize he’s one of the most overpaid players in the NBA. Because that’s how we evaluate pro players. There’s actual analysis.
But then we get to college, and we start talking about grit and heart. We irrationally praise seniors for being mature, even if their game isn’t. It’s the narrative that makes perfect sense, but clearly isn’t true for everyone. And it certainly isn’t true for Fair, who just keeps chucking them up from mid-range.
So what was Fair’s final shooting line this year? 43-28-72, so incredibly Bargnani-like.
His true shooting? 49 percent. And meanwhile, he was using even more possessions than Bargs to throw up all those contested, 18-foot, fadeaways. An offense can’t score like that. At least, it can’t score efficiently. And yet, we have remarkably intelligent people talking about how a player who styles himself like C.J. should be an end-of-the-first- or early-in-the-second-round pick. What are we doing? Why are we assessing the college game so differently than the NBA one?
College hoops is wonderful, but it’s backwards. This isn’t helping. It’s the same game, people. Let’s start acting like it.
It’s official. This sport has driven me mad.