The most schizophrenic game of the season.   And an interesting one to watch.  

The Clips play their best half of basketball before intermission, then circle the drain in the second half. In the third quarter, their defense begins to leak like a sieve and, on the offensive end, the Clips cool off as Milwaukee adjusts.  On the other end, Milwaukee heats up as the Clips fail to adjust.

In the first half, the Clips are extremely aggressive offensively.  Though it seems counter-intuitive, it’s possible to play a fast-paced halfcourt game.  Sometimes the best shot comes before the defense can get oriented. That’s how the Clips build their big lead:

•    With Milwaukee preoccupied with Chris Kaman, the Clips call for a number of clear-outs with Tim Thomas against Yi.  Clipperblog contributor/co-account holder John mentioned this the other day, but Thomas is one of the league’s great enigmas of the past decade.  He’s got an All-Star skill set but his intrinsic…I don’t want to call it knuckleheadedness because I think that’s probably 18% unfair…let’s just say that he doesn’t always utilize his talents and dogs it on the defensive end and – often enough – on the glass.

But tonight, the Clips recognize an opportunity with Thomas.  

[1st, 3:04] On two of the past four possessions, the Clips have employed clear-outs for Thomas.  So they go to him again on the left side.   Thomas drives right, then picks up his dribble and pivots left.  Milwaukee is alert this time and their shot blocker – Andrew Bogut – slides over in front of the basket.  So Thomas wisely elevates from about eight feet for a pretty hook shot over Yi.  He’s got nine points nine minutes in and finishes 6-13 on the night – and 4-5 from the floor with a trip to the line.  

•    More maturation from Chris Kaman.  The Bucks decide to send the mother of all double-teams at Chris – two seven footers.  A year ago, Chris would’ve melted.  But only six weeks into this season, he’s cultivated some coping mechanisms.    

[1st, 7:56]  Corey Maggette dumps it into Kaman just off the right post guarded by Bogut.  Yi moves over for the double.  The rest of the Clippers’ squad is scattered along the arc.  Redd is sagging way off Brevin Knight on the far side.  So Knight dives toward the hoop and Kaman finds him with a good pass over the two big defenders.  Even Knight can’t blow this finish.  

[1st, 6:31]  A couple trips later it’s Kaman off the left post.  Again, Yi moves over.  And again, Knight dives, but this time Redd collapses on Knight…but Knight and Ross recognize that this leaves Q open, so he dives and picks up an easy lay-in from Knight.  

[2nd, 3:23]  The Bucks decide to lay off the double-teams and let Villanueva cover Kaman one-on-one.  Kaman gets deeper position.  He dribbles left, spins baseline and kisses the right-handed hook off the glass.  

The Clips have it working defensively in the first half, too.  

•    [1st, 5:35]  The Bucks work it around the perimeter as the Clips are handling every screen.  Knight runs through a Yi screen for Mo Williams and quickly recovers; Q has Michael Redd under control.  So they go into Bogut against Chris down low.  Chris challenges the shot and it’s no good.   

•    [1st, 2:30]  Best defensive possession of the night:  Yi grabs a missed Bogut FT.  Aaron Williams quickly picks him up.  Bogut sets a screen on Knight, but again, Knight quickly fights through it.  Yi sets a brush screen on Ross for Redd, but Q quickly recovers and picks up the scorer up top.  Off the ball,  Bogut tries to free up Yi, but Maggette’s recovery is quick.  Bogut then moves up top for a high S/R for Redd; the Clips trap with Williams and Ross so Bogut rolls toward the hoop, but Thomas and Knight quickly collapse on Bogut, and the big man loses the ball.

•    [2nd, 10:40]  Bell drops it into Bogut off the left post with A. Williams covering.  Bogut rocks and Cuttino Mobley comes over for the double-team.  Bogut struggles, but manages to kick it back out to Bell.  Villanueva cuts from the weak side perimeter to the left post but his man, Thomas, had rotated over to pick up the ball.  So Dickau has to take Villanueva underneath – bad, bad mismatch for the Clips.  But no worries, because Williams quickly recognizes it.  When he arrives, Villanueva is distracted and Dickau strips him of the ball.

But the second half is a different story.
•    [3rd, 10:32]  The Bucks continue the double-team on Chris, but this time they decide to hold off until Chris is mid-drive.  Chris has to take a deliberate step back and he misses the hook.  Ross goes after the ball, but gets bodyslammed into the press table and draws the loose-ball foul.  The Clips inbound it.  

The Bucks have moved back to a man-to-man from the ineffective zone they ran at the Clippers in the second quarter.  Yi has Maggette up top. Corey takes him off the dribble, but two Buck defenders converge n the drive.  Maggette slings it up and Bogut gets a little piece of it.  

•    [3rd, 8:37]  The Clips stand around off the ball as Knight dribbles it into the floor.  Finally, at :12, Thomas sets a half-hearted screen for Knight on Williams.  The Bucks switch Yi onto the point guard.  He slings it over to Ross way out on the perimeter – no progress there.  Ross returns it to Knight…who then send it back to Ross.  Maggette to his right would’ve been a better option.    Ross drives it to the corner, but is trapped there.  He tries to get it back up top to Thomas, but the ball is deflected out of bounds with :03 on the clock.  Maggette inbounds it to Thomas in front of him and Thomas heaves up a desperate running 3PA at the buzzer that draws nothing.  Shot clock violation.  

The Bucks earn a zillion buckets in transition off Clipper misses.   And in the halfcourt, the Bucks get too many shots close in:

•    [3rd, 2:23]  Bogut sets a high screen for Williams on Knight.  The Clips trap Williams [why?], as Bogut rolls toward the hoop.  With every other Milwaukee player set up on the weak side, nobody is there to pick up the big man.  Williams’ pass easily clears the double-team and Bogut slams it through.  

The teams score five point collectively in the first four minutes of the 4th.  Paul Davis gets a dunk blocked by Desmond Mason; Chris misses a layup; and on five consecutive possessions, the Clips miss five shots from beyond 20 feet.  It’s that ferocious Bucks interior D [facetious] that compels them to take outside jumpers, natch.      

•    [4th, 7:30]   The Bucks are having good success working the offense through Bogut on the left block.  This time the Clips send a double-team, with Thomas helping Davis.   He kicks it back out to Williams, who quickly returns it.  This time it’s Bogut one-on-one against Davis – who slips and falls.  Easy layup for Bogut.  

•    [4th, 6:31]  This time Bogut is set up on the weak side post.  It goes into Bobby Simmons against Maggette in the left post.  Kaman comes over to double and Thomas is late to pick up Bogut.  Simmons darts a beautiful pass to Bogut across the baseline and the big man lays it in.   Where the Clippers were closing and recovering quickly in the first half, they’re zoning out now and Milwaukee is making them pay.  

•    [4th, 2:57]  Michael Redd has a tremendous second half.  On the previous possession, Mobley fails to rotate on him in the corner and he hits a 3PM to turn a one-point Clipper lead into a two-point deficit.   This time down, Villanueva sets a nasty ball screen on Ross [Villanueva does this very well]  and Redd drives right by Tim Thomas who picked him up on the switch.  Redd is lightning quick to the rim and is there before Kaman can challenge his shot.  We never see the Bucks play and it’s hard to remember that Redd’s floor game is nasty.  

•    [4th, 2:16]  Cat Mobley has a wretched night.  Here, he bites on a Bobby Simmons ball fake from the arc as the former Clipper flies right past the him.  Simmons dribbles in six feet and hits an open jumper from 17.  Neither Dickau or Ross [who is on Redd] steps up to challenge.

•    [4th, 1:40]  The dagger as Redd works off a high screen from Yi and nails a 3PM over a recovering Ross.  The Clips haven’t won since they beat Denver at home a couple of weeks ago, and a loss tonight to Seattle would be mortifying.  But tonight, they put in a solid effort against a team that got white hot down the stretch.  And with Brand out, more times than not the best player on the floor won’t be a Clipper – as was the case tonight.