Look at it this way: At least the Clippers won't be the number one sports story in town tomorrow morning.

The question is no longer, "what are the Clippers doing on offense?"  I gave up trying to answer that one a couple of weeks ago.  The more salient question is, "what are they trying to do on offense?"   Does Mike Dunleavy really have an offensive philosophy for this squad?  Anyone have any ideas what that might be?   
By last spring, the Clippers had an offensive playbook that was composed pretty much of side screen rolls for Cassell/Brand, with either a second down screen to free up Kaman or a kick-out to a perimeter player whose guy left to help on the primary option.  If the matchup was favorable, the Clips also liked to post their guards against smaller defenders -- let them drive and then step off the block and shoot.  

Ladies and germs, your 2005-2006 Los Angeles Clippers.

This season, do you have any idea what you're watching?  During the first two weeks of November, we excused the rust as a combination of weariness and opponents' getting wise to Brand's m.o.  Teams began to double Brand off the ball or, at the very least, beating him to his spot off the left block.  We assumed that Dunleavy would make the according adjustments, then the parts would start to move again.  So after a stretch of games in which the Clippers couldn't execute a simple offensive set, they began to see some good looks in Sacramento – though they couldn't hit – and managed a fluid effort against a Memphis team right now that, outside of Dahntay Jones, can't be bothered to defend opposing basketball players.

Tonight, we saw a system with -- outside of Kobe and Lamar -- absolutely no talent or depth.  On the other side, the Clippers are nothing but talent and depth, but without any coherent system whatsoever.

First sign of trouble [5:52, 1st] Cassell-Mobley-Livingston-Brand-Kaman:

Lakers up 11-8.  Shaun brings the ball up, then drops it to Mobley up top.  Mobley gets a high screen from Elton and dribbles right.  But here's the thing: Kobe fights through the screen and catches up to Mobley; yet Kwame Brown – asshat that he is – actually leaves EB to trap Mobley.  Elton is wide open.  And I mean wiiiiiiiide the fuck open.   Instead, the rock goes into Kaman in the post.  Chris spins, turns and floats a gentle hook over Odom for two.  Okay, I know the Clips got the hoop.  But if your basketball team can't take full advantage of an unqualified mark like Kwame Brown, then it has problems. 

Let's go to the final five minutes of the first half, during which the Clips hit exactly one field goal, and that was an EB tip-in following two missed layups.  I'll focus on the Clippers' offensive possessions.  For the most part, I thought the Clips played some solid defense tonight.  I know the box score says that the Lakers hit 50% of their shots.  But the Clippers' defensive sets – some obvious exceptions aside – were well-organized and responsive.  Anyway, with 5:00 left in the half, the Lakers are up one, 36-35:

  • [4:48] General insanity from Kobe Bryant which, if you were watching from home, you couldn't see because the KTLA producer is a spaceshot and, quite possible, a functional retard.  Fortunately, I was at the ball game, so I witnessed aforementioned extraterrestrial activity.  Lakers by 3.
  • Livingston brings the ball up.  He gets a lousy screen from Brand, turns the corner and heaves up a runner.  Not close and, on the rebound, Shaun picks up a frustration foul. 
  • The good news?  Livingston blocks Kobe's shot on the other end.[1]  Sam brings the ball up in a very controlled transition.  Here's my interpretation, though it's complete conjecture:  Sam is still pissy over the officiating and feels that he's owed a makeup call.  So what does he do?  Tries to take Smush off the dribble and drive into the teeth of the Lakers' interior defense – Odom, Kwame, Luke, et all.  Sam misses, tumbles to the floor and bitches some more. 
  • Cassell makes the post entry pass into Kaman on the right block.  Kaman has Odom and, feeling confident, spins lane and drives to the basket with authority.  Great move, but the basket didn't fall. Chris makes both.  Lakers by 1.  There were other nice features on this play.  Livingston darted past a nice Brand screen on Kobe and got himself free on the weak side block.[2]

  • Though functional retard on KTLA's production team didn't show it to the home audience, Sam politely shoves Smush Parker with the weight of his upper body during the inbound off the Odom bucket.  Ball back to the Lakers, up by 3.

    Smush is a flopper.  Throw him in with the rest of 'em. 

    Walton loses the ball and, though he initiated the contact and tripped over EB, Elton is whistled for the foul.  

    Readers can attest that Clipperblog will go weeks without so much as alluding to the officiating, but this is some dogshit refereeing here -- just really awful stuff that a dull child could get right. 
  • Sam brings it up, gets it to Brand at the left elbow.  Kaman has moved down to the low right post, but is doubled there by both Lamar and Turiaf – Ross' guy, because Q has set up so far out on the wing that Turiaf is free to roam.  Kaman is a lousy option, as is Q way over on the weak side.  Corey is up top with Walton in close proximity.  Elton faces up and dribbles, but decides against either shooting [probably smart] and working it in the open court [probably not a bad idea]  At :10, he returns it to Sam out on the wing now with Smush all up in his shit.  Sam is still pissy and decides to spin left and drive baseline.  He'll show him! Sam misses the layup. 
  • On the other end, another dogshit call on a clean EB block of a little Smush putback.   In a divine instance of the basketball fan's proverbial "justice," Smush misses both free throws.   A better question is why Smush was free for the putback in the first place. 

    Bad shit happens when worse shit allows it to happen.

    Cassell to Brand at the left elbow, but not until :11 after a roundtrip game of catch up top with Q.  Brand spins and drives left, but decides there isn't enough daylight there with Brown between him and the basket.  EB sends it back out to Cassell and reposts.  Sam swings it over to Q who, with only :04 left on the shot clock, misses the floating 8-footer.  Brown tips the rebound out of bounds.  The Clippers reset.

    Maggette inbounds it to Brand on the left block.  EB drives with resolve to the basket in traffic.  He misses; gets the board; misses again; then tips it in. [Lakers by 1]
  • Just a classic display of Elton's tentativeness.  After Lamar weaves his way through the Clips defense for a beaut of a layup [Lakers by 3], the Clippers bring it down, leaving it with Kaman up top as they set.  Cassell sets a tough screen for Brand in which he gets pancaked by Kwame Brown.  This enables Brand to get loose and collect the pass from Kaman at his favorite spot.  It's a wide open shot.  Smush Parker is three steps off him and Kwame is wearing Cassell on his windshield.  It's a Wide. Open. Shot.

    Instead, Brand hesitates twice, then kicks it back out to Cassell with :07 left. Brand reposts, then gets it back from Cassell.  This time, the shot isn't nearly so open, so Brand kicks it out to Maggette, who heaves up the 3 with the shot clock expiring. No good.  Kaman grabs the offensive board, but decides to dribble it back out just an instant, then dribble, spin and shoot over Odom.  No good.
  • After Luke Walton hits a 3 [Corey fast asleep], Lakers lead by 6.  Cassell slings it to Kaman up top as the offense sets.  He can (1) go to Corey, who is trying to get position against Walton (2) hit Q at the elbow, who then can drive to the hole since Luke is all tangled up with Corey.  Kaman chooses (2); Kaman hits Ross with the pass.  Q drives to the lane but Kobe deflects the ball before Q can go up with it.  It's worth mentioning that, down six, neither Brand nor Cassell are reasonable options in the set.  Just sayin' is all.

    :11 left on the shot clock at inbounds.  Cassell runs around a Kaman screen and gets the ball in the corner.  For all of Sam's crappy shot selections, he passes up a perfectly good look to become Mr. Pass-First, and tries to hit Kaman as Chris frees up.  This takes Chris by complete surprise and the ball rolls off his hands.
  • After a drive and hoop by Bryant, the Lakers are up 8.  With :33 left in the half, Sam brings it up.  He gets a high, high, high screen from Elton, takes the pick, and pulls up for a 20-footer.  The long miss bounces around and Sam finally grabs it. 

    Final shot.  Sam gets another screen from Elton – this one not as strong.  When Sam runs off the screen, he collides with Kwame.  No call.  The leather on Sam's head is curling.  The half effectively ends. 
The Clippers miss on nine of their last ten shots.  As Steve pointed out, offensive series aren't taking shape until well into the possessions.  Nobody can make a decent post entry pass. Nobody knows when and where they're to receive passes.  Screens are imprecise.  The old attack on the weak side glass is nowhere to be seen.  And Elton Brand doesn't really like taking face-up 15-footers anymore. 

Other than that, there's plenty to be pleased with. 

[1] Shaun blocked two of Kobe's shots, the other a monster stuff at the close of the first quarter with Kobe in the open court.  Kobe launched himself from the key, about ten feet from the basket, and Shaun stayed with him every moment from halfcourt to the release.  

[2] Over the past week, Shaun has been doing a nice job of finding ways to get himself open off the ball, even if it isn't part of the set. It's one thing to attack when you have the ball; it's another to attack the defense when you don't.  Really good ballplayers do both, especially when the set has been blown to hell.  Readers of Clipperblog are well-aware with my odd fascination with Rip Hamilton.  This is why.  It goes without saying that nobody is better at spontaneously creating space for himself than Bryant.