There are ebbs and flows throughout regulation and overtime, but Memphis wins the game because the Clippers do nothing defensively below the stripe to deprive the Grizzlies of points, rebounds, or space. Kyle Lowry penetrates with ease all night and the Clippers are uncharacteristically soft when bodying up against Memphis. Tim Thomas plays like an efficient low-post power forward in the Clippers’ halfcourt, but he’s physically manhandled on the defensive end on a night when the Clippers desperately need him to play up to his size. With Thomas, though, it’s as much mind as it is body. We see it on the game’s very first possession, when he leaves Gay alone on the perimeter to pick up a diving Darko Milicic. We see it on the second possession when he slides off Gay again to become the third Clipper to collapse on a driving Mike Miller. And on the third possession – remember, Gay already has five points in the first 90 seconds – he barely puts up a hand to challenge Gay’s 20-foot set shot. I know it’s unseemly to lambaste a guy who chips in 23 points on 10-13 shooting, but any informed critique of this game – one in which an average offensive team minus its best offensive player achieves anything they want offensively – has to conclude that Tim Thomas makes it all possible with one of the worst individual defensive performances of recent memory. It’s all the more frustrating when you consider that Thomas has played some quality defensive games this season. His cover of Dirk Nowitzki a couple of weeks back should be considered for outstanding defensive work against a parahuman. But this game is one malfunction after another. The rebounding, as you would expect in Chris Kaman’s absence, is atrocious. On the Memphis end, the Grizzlies collect 13 offensive boards to the Clippers’ 26 defensive rebounds. Without Maggette, the margin would be even scarier. Once the Clippers abandon the post, the game is perfectly tailored to Corey Maggette since the Grizzlies have zero shotblocking and can’t offer help defense to save their lives. Furthermore, Memphis doesn’t do much defensively off the ball either, and Corey takes full advantage of it. This is illustrated perfectly at the outset of the second quarter when Corey slides along the baseline, being tailed by Bobby Jones, then cuts out to the arc. When Jones decides to follow him only as far as the edge of the lane, Corey starts his engine and essentially runs a pattern along the arc. Brevin Knights hits him mid-route just above the elbow. From there, Corey never slows as he knives through the lane for an easy layup. So far as the moment at the end of regulation after Maggette strips Mike Miller on the way to the rim with about seven seconds, I don’t know why a team in this situation doesn’t try to convert without a timeout. Even recognizing that the Clippers are possibly the least competent fast break/transition team in the league, I still think they’ve got a better chance to score in transition with the clock winding down than allowing a bad Memphis defensive squad set itself up in the halfcourt. Needless to say, the Clips are late calling time, then turn it over on the inbound. In retrospect, the Clips are fortunate that, after Gay steals the inbound, there isn’t any more than 2.9 seconds remaining. The overtime period demonstrates a couple of small, telling failures. Take the Memphis possession at 3:20. The Grizzlies run a very high S/R with Miller and Hakim Warrick. Quinton Ross is on Mike Miller and Thomas has Warrick. Miller is along the right baseline and Warrick comes over from his left to set the screen on Ross. Ross easily wiggles above it. But Tim Thomas – instead of picking up the diving Warrick – is lurching toward Miller [I guess to trap]. Ross collides into Thomas, who then realizes that he was supposed to pick up Warrick on the drag. Thomas tries to recover but it’s elementary at this point. Warrick buries a wide, wide open 15 footer. A couple of minutes later, Thomas decides again to leave Warrick at 13 feet to collapse on a driving Juan Carlos Navarro, even though Thomas isn’t the help defender on this play and, in fact, he’s the one guy on this set other than Ross who needs to stay home. Navarro recognizes Thomas’s shift immediately and floats a beautiful pass across his body to a wide open Warrick. Another two for the Grizzlies’ PF. Okay, so I’m piling on. But this is a game the Clips can win with some reasonably intelligent stay-at-home defense. Yet on seemingly every possession, with the exception of a very heady stretch during the first 8:30 of the fourth quarter, guys collapse when they don’t need to. Or it’s the wrong guys. Or they’re steering their assignments away from the help instead of toward it. The Clippers have every opportunity to be the smarter team, but in the end, they fail.