Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: LeBron James showed why he is the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers, finishing the night with 22 points and 12 assists without a single turnover for the game.
That was … slippage: Coming into tonight’s game, the Clippers were one of the best teams in the league defending against three-pointers — especially of the corner variety. One wouldn’t have been able to tell that tonight, as the Cavs buried 13 of their 28 threes.
X factor: The glass was a persistent issue the entire evening, as the Clippers gave up 14 offensive rebounds to the Cavaliers and would be outrebounded for the match 47-35.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
— Hector Diaz (@iamHectorDiaz) January 22, 2016
The Cavaliers outscored the Clippers a combined 14-4 during the Hack-a-Jordan sequences during the 3rd & 4th quarters. #NBA
— Isaac Lowenkron (@isaaclowenkron) January 22, 2016
CP: "It was a joke with the 50-50 game tonight, how many loose balls they came up with. Every time they got it, they got a three.”
— Rowan Kavner (@RowanKavner) January 22, 2016
Check Your Messages
Who’s to Blame?
The Clippers’ streak without star forward Blake Griffin was finally broken by the Kings, and now they find themselves starting off their 5-game road trip on the wrong foot after losing tonight against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Aside from medieval motifs, it seems pretty clear that they have some things in common.
For one, they’re big down low. Timofey Mozgov, Kevin Love, Lebron James, Boogie Cousins… the Clips don’t even have anyone who can match up when DeAndre Jordan, Cole Aldrich, or the aforementioned Griffin are off the floor. Then there’s Doc’s unfortunate tendency to play wings against them; you can guess how that usually goes. But it doesn’t stop there; Doc plays 3-guard units almost all the time once the starters sit, which usually leaves Austin Rivers or Jamal Crawford guarding elite 3s like James, or Kawhi Leonard, or Kevin Durant. Some would call this unacceptable. Luc Mbah a Moute may have shown that he can somewhat slow guys down, but hasn’t established himself as near the contributor that Matt Barnes was in the last few seasons. In fact, there are some in Clipper Nation who would happily see Jared Dudley back in a Ship Gang uniform.
So, we see all these things that are wrong. The question is: how do they fix this? Does the answer lie in another personnel move? Obviously, Griffin will be returning to the lineup soon, but that doesn’t fix the problems with the second unit rotation. Do the Clippers need a new coach? Or do they stay the course and hope the aging Crawford and/or Paul Pierce discover the Holy Grail and start doing so in reverse like Benjamin Button? Right now, the Clippers have more questions than answers and are rapidly running out of time to figure it out.
Where are the Statement Wins?
So far this season, the Clippers have for the most part, won the games they are ‘supposed’ to — whatever that means. But a quick glance back through November and December and you will notice losses to: San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Toronto, Golden State. In fact, there’s a legitimate debate to be had regarding what exactly has been their best win of the season. Was it at home against the Mavericks in the second game of the season? Or maybe it was the home spanking of the Heat last Wednesday.
All this is to point out the Clippers curious underperformance against the league’s better teams — including the one’s in their own conference. We’re not yet at the All-Star break but the fact the Clippers are winless against the three teams ahead of them is just a little bit strange. Today’s thumping against Cleveland — the likely runaway first seed in the East — could either be swept under the rug as a typical bump in the grind of an NBA season, or an expansion of the team’s failure to snag a win against a contender. All judgements are reserved until Blake Griffin returns to the lineup and in the meantime it is still encouraging to see them guard against let downs to inferior teams. But once the full unit is back together it will be paramount to grab as many wins against the better teams prior to the playoffs as possible.
The Clippers have been taking advantage of their ability to play proficient basketball out of extremely small lineups at the forward position. Tonight, it was a major issue.
The first half saw Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love make only two field goals, but he was still able to get a double-double by halftime for only the 4th time all season. Nominal power forward Paul Pierce didn’t make a shot or grab a rebound all night, and he didn’t even last 17 minutes.
Of course, the Cavaliers start the largest SF in the league in LeBron James, and he was in a supreme level of control that we hadn’t seen from him since 2010. That was the last time James had a game where he had 12 assists without a single turnover. The Clippers are small on the perimeter, especially when they go to the bench, and even on the second night of a back-to-back, James wasn’t stressed. He made plays for others and himself.
The only other time the Clippers saw a player drop 12+ dimes on them without a turnover in the Chris Paul era was last February, when Spurs PG Tony Parker had 13 assists without a turnover in a 119-115 Clippers win. It’s an amazing feat by James, and also one that was perhaps made easier by the lack of disruption from the Clippers forwards. They’ll have to be better when they got to New York Friday night and deal with Carmelo Anthony and rookie Kristaps Porzingis.