Dallas is one of the worst matchup nightmares in recent history: There's Dirk Nowitzki – Larry Bird + 3 ½ inches. You've got Josh Howard who is too long, too quick, too smart, and generally too good for any single defender. Then everyone else on the court services his role – Erick Dampier creates space and Devin Harris draws in the defense with penetration. Then, coming off the bench, there's Jason Terry: A 50% FG shooter who never really makes a bad decision in halfcourt play, and has been hitting considerably better than 40% from the arc since he got to Dallas. I'm not entirely sure what Eddie Jones gives them -- his defense is solid, but not what it was ten years ago.
Given the circumstances, the Clippers play a decent game, even on the defensive end where Dallas hits at a 55% clip. These things happen when you assign Tim Thomas, then Paul Davis, then – with no other recourse -- Cuttino Mobley to handle Nowitzki. This isn't a knock on the coaching staff because I don't have any other suggestions other than this might have been a nice opportunity to give Josh Powell some minutes because Nowitzki is a natural assignment for him – an opposing PF who plays off the block most of the time. But the problem with Josh Powell is that…he's Josh Powell and not someone who can do anything to help a basketball team on the other end.
Except for hitting their open looks, I don't know what else the Clips can do here. They do a good job of swinging the ball side-to-side against a very, very long defensive squad. They cut it to within three in the 3rd with a nice ball reversal. Given what Dallas throws at him, Kaman handles the double-teams well – six turnovers notwithstanding. He finishes the game with five assists. At the close of the first half with about :45 seconds left, Dallas sends a quick, feverish double-team at Kaman – Josh Howard joining Dampier -- up against the baseline. Everyone makes a nice decision here: The instant Howard moves off Corey from the weak side to pick up the double, Corey slides down the lane. He's immediately picked up there by Nowitzki, who has moved off Thomas…but Harris has now rotated over on TT. So this leaves Brevin Knight as the open guy. It's a tough find for Kaman, who is trapped against the baseline, but he manages to dart the ball over to Knight. With Harris closing, Knight hits the jumper.
With the exception of San Antonio, Dallas has the best defensive rotation in the West. But the Clips do everything they can to work a shot, and they succeed. It's not impossible to do this on every set, but for a team without a lot of good defensive options, it requires precision. But, for the most part, the Clippers accomplished that tonight…they just can't hit their open looks. Still, strange as it sounds, I thought this was one of the Clippers' better games of the season.
Highlight of the night: [1st, 1:05] Mike Smith on Chris Kaman: "That's when you know you're a superstar, Ralph. When you can go kibitz with the referees."
Trust me when I tell you that Mike Smith is the singularly most goyische life form in the universe. It's endearing.
Ralph Lawler [1st, 0:07]: "So now Nowitzki comes out...and kibitzes over here with Coach Dunleavy."