Here's something encouraging about a win against a team missing, arguably, its best four players[1]:  The Clippers continue to kill the zone.  There are a couple different reasons why a team goes with the zone:  (1) It's missing its best four players and is going with a makeshift lineup [Milwaukee, Golden State].  (2) Nobody on the team can play man-on-man defense and they're even worse in help situations [Seattle]  (3)  A long, sometimes - but not always -- less physical, team wants to maximize that length against teams that work a confident high-low game [Flip Saunders, Minnesota and now Detroit].

Because of their post-oriented offense - and because so many of their scorers have trouble with post entry passes [we won't mention any names, I guess] - the Clips have traditionally had trouble with the zone.  And if you can't move the ball or shoot from outside, you can't beat the zone.  But Cassell's return means that the Clips can now operate in transition before the opposing zone can get set.  That's what always bothered me about the Clips' failure in this area:  A team with agile big men should always be able to break the zone because they can move off their man, get the ball, then drive against a slower defender.  Did you notice how Elton got a handful of baskets last night moving toward the hoop with the rock?   That's because there was nobody to man up on him when he got down the floor.  The Bucks were each so preoccupied with defending their respective zones that they couldn't get a body on Elton before it was too late. 

The Bucks began to pressure the ball more in the middle of the second quarter.  They even threw a double-team or two at EB.  And, for a brief period of time, it sort of worked.  They cut the Clippers' lead to single-digits.  It appeared that the Clips weren't entirely sure what Milwaukee was doing defensively.  Rather than get frustrated [and I guess you have the luxury to suspend frustration against an undermanned squad like Milwaukee], the Clippers began to move the ball all over the court. 

Their two best possessions didn't yield a point, but they managed to work two open shots:

  • [2nd, 2:52]  The starting lineup is on the floor. Cassell quickly delivers the ball to Q on the left wing at about 15-feet.  Q has the shot, but slings it over to Cat in the left corner, where Boykins closes quickly.  With the height advantage, Mobley has an easy, quick pass back to Q on the wing.  Against the zone, Q can dribble inside the foul line, and he does, drawing a crowd just below the stripe.  Seeing three Christmas Trees coming at him, Ross finds the best open man in Elton who - and here's the key - has moved just off the block at the right wing because there's absolutely nobody to guard him out there.  Skinner has a choice to make:  Leave Kaman alone underneath to come out on EB or stay on Kaman and allow Brand to dribble to about 16 feet, where he's automatic.  Skinner chooses the former, so Elton tosses a pass just over skinner into Kaman.  Kaman has a wide open shot [this can be a problem], but misses the layup. 

    So, okay, Kaman's shot rattles in-and-out, but he'll make that open layup 8 out of 10 times.  And 16-17 points on 10 shots is winning basketball.

  • [2nd, 1:32]  Here's an example of how Mobley can be an effective halfcourt player.  We've all concluded that the Clips could do a lot better at the '2,' but Cat is who he is and if he can generate an open shot for himself or a teammate, well, that's all you can ask.  Here, Mobley gets the ball up top on the right wing.  Cassell is standing at the very top of the arc.  Kobestopper is on Cat, while Charlie Bell patrols Cassell's vicinity.  Mobley goes into a stationary dribble.  it's clear that he's deliberately and smartly trying to figure out exactly when Bell will leave Cassell.  Because Q is set up way, way over in the left corner and Elton is creeping ever so slowly out on the right wing, there's not going to be much help for either Patterson or Bell if one of them decides to leave and double-team.  There just won't be enough time. 

    So here's Cat, dribbling, dribbling, watching Bell as closely as he's watching Patterson.  Finally, Mobley dribbles left, just enough into Bell's zone where he can draw Bell off Cassell.  And that's exactly what happens.  As Cat penetrates and draws Bell, he dishes it off to a wide-open Cassell at 23 feet.

    Cassell misses the open jumper, but just like the Kaman FGA, it's a shot you want.  Because Casell will sing 6, maybe 6.5 out of 10 wide-open 23-footers.  More winning basketball. 

[1] Can you imagine a Clippers' lineup without Brand, Cassell, Mobley, and Maggette?  Starters: (PG) Shaun Livingston (SG) Quinton Ross (SF) James Singleton (PF) Tim Thomas (C) Chris Kaman.   Now take that team on the road for one of those interminable East Coast swings.   How's that working for you?