Los Angeles Clippers (20-13) @ New Orleans Pelicans (10-21)
Smoothie King Center
5:00 p.m. PST
December 31, 2015
Fox Prime Ticket
1. Anthony Davis says the Pelicans need to play harder. Do you agreement with this assessment?
Ben Mesirow (@SemNeb): When things go wrong with a basketball team there are a few amorphous issues people like to cite – heart, toughness, and effort. These deficiencies of character or motivation are almost entirely unquantifiable, which makes them easy scapegoats for a scuffling team. For my part I don’t really believe that they are ever the true center of the trouble on a roster of extremely talented and insanely competitive athletes. And that assessment feels especially thin for an oddly constructed team with a still super young centerpiece, a new coach, and a ton of injury issues. Hopefully, though, this means that Davis will get a bit more assertive himself – his numbers are down this season, and he’s looked a little listless a little too often for The Future King Of Basketball.
Kaveh Jam (@kavehsroom): It’s true in some regard. But there’s no playing hard when you’re the 29th ranked defensive team in the entire league. That is a clear signal that you’re lacking in some personnel aspect. The Pelicans need health and a better construction of players around Anthony Davis. At that point, their efforts will reap tangible results.
Michael Shagrin (@mshaggy): Hard to say, but hustling leads to wins and there’s usually some material impact after the franchise calls out his own low-energy teammates. To be fair, this healthier version of the Cans from the last couple weeks hasn’t looked horrible by any means, but it still feels like an ingredient or two remains missing. Just playing harder won’t be enough for New Orleans to enter the playoff picture.
2. The Clippers have a pretty good record when one of Blake or CP3 miss games. Why?
Mesirow: There are a few reasons why the Clippers have stayed afloat without one of their two stars over the last couple of seasons. First, the starting unit has enough talent to keep the offense humming even without a key cog – JJ can still zip around screens and nail jumpers, DJ can still dive hard to the rim for dunks, and either Blake or CP can handle playmaking when the other is out. The two stars also have a tendency to shoulder more of an alpha dog burden when the other is injured – when CP was out two years ago Blake elevated himself into the MVP conversation, and both last year and this year CP has been much more aggressive without Blake.
Jam: It has served as a rallying point. Their season was dangling by a string. Effort was waning. With Griffin gone, the true depth of the Clippers was put into play. As a result, others have stepped up and more than picked up the slack.
Shagrin: Good question. The Clippers tend to play up or down to the quality of their opponent, often failing to control the game’s tempo from wire-to-wire against inferior teams (see: postseason 2015). That usually results in wins just because the team has so much gosh darned talent, primarily housed in Blake and CP. But when one of those guys is on the bench, the team is in a sense forced to play more systematically rather just relying on “talent winning out.”
3. What should the Clippers’ New Years resolution be?
Mesirow: More effort, more toughness, more heart! Just kidding. I think the Clippers should resolve to find a consistent and defined role for Lance, to figure out how to maximize the talents of their weird and uneven bench, to finally give some of the youngsters (specifically CJ Wilcox, who has looked good in the D-League) a shot at earning some time, and to make an all-out push for the 3 seed.
Jam: Consistency. The beginning of their season, while offering glimpses of what their potential is, was largely a disappointing period filled with inconsistencies, particularly on the offensive rebounding and sheer effort categories. That they are pulling out wins minus Griffin points to the not so surprising fact that it was never a roster or talent issue.
Shagrin: I would say stay healthy, but it is pretty interesting to see how these guys fair when key components are out. I would say find a consistent rotation, but that might leave Lance Stephenson out in the cold and that would be a shame. I would say stop kvetching, but… nah.