Good rule of thumb:  bank on nothin’ in 06/07…

Because of the 05/06 Clips stellar, consistent defense, I blindly assume we are still one of the better defensive teams in the league.  Yet here we are – having given up >50% FGs to our last 4 opponents, including today’s McGrady-less Rockets.  We rank a disgusting 22nd in the league in FG% against.   And it’s glaring - we don’t rotate, our help defense is non-existent (Kaman, nice game, but I’m looking at you).  Our perimeter D, never a Clipper strong point (though with Q on the floor, generally proficient), is now bordering on abysmal.  Ironically, the much maligned Dunleavy offense has of late found life, with great balance this afternoon, some very nice possessions and a bit more patience in running sets.  If it’s not one thing…

The Good: 

  • No Sam?  We Can Find Points Cause We’re F’in Talented  – Shaun paced us with 21, while Kaman, Brand, Maggette and Mobley each had at least 14. We need players to step up and make up for Sam and the occasional Brand offensive “lapse” (i.e. <20 pts).  We got that.  There’s still a lot to complain about in our half-court sets but we are talented enough to play our predictable, “isolation-offense” and put points on the board.  So yes, even against a strong defensive team, we can score.  Be nice to see us grow more offensively (surely, Dunleavy Sr., you have some tricks up your sleeve)… but we can get the job done within our current system.
  • Shaun Livingston (all growns up) – Directing traffic, driving to the basket with confidence, draining the short pull-up, finishing, defensive intensity… he’s put together a string of games that should be making everyone a believer.  Today he went for 21p / 9r / 6a / 2s / 1b -  very nice line, Shaun.
  • Chris Kaman – I think rockin’ the white headband has really worked out for him.   The main thing to love today was Chris’ energy and passion.  His head (for Chris) was in the game, looking to attack Yao, playing with confidence, and rebounding very well.  Just extremely active on both ends of the floor.  He has some of the prettiest low-post moves in the league, and he unloaded the powerful offensive arsenal at his disposal.  If he can just learn to take care of the ball, and rotate on D, we could have a helluva force in the middle for years to come.

The Bad: 

  • Corey Maggette – I’m a Corey guy and he had a nice game, especially considering he's still not 100%… but doesn’t he look completely out of sync on almost every offensive set?  Is he held out of practice, so he can enter a game with no clue of how to space?  Only by sheer force of will and immense physical talent does he make something out of nothing so consistently.  I’m not sure what the Dunleavy gameplan is with regard to utilizing Maggette, but he has to find a way to better leverage a Top 50 talent within his system.    
  • James Singleton – weirdest DNP of the night considering TT got hurt beginning of the 1st quarter. 
  • Aaron Williams – sir, please join us, we’re still waiting … oh and try to not get completely owned by Howard next time we play these guys…
  • Everyone Is Hurt – Maggette is still ailing (I think he’s looking to drive less in part because of the Achilles, also limited his minutes today), TT (knee) and now Q (back spasms) are gone, Sam’s got the plantar fasciitis...

The Ugly: 

  • Rafer Alston!?  Guy shoots 37% FG for the season, career 38%… sure, the Rockets space the floor well, but our perimeter D was ridiculously bad.  Just simple things for which there is no excuse (e.g. Shaun’ll go down to double Battier at the foul line, not pop back up fast enough to get a hand in the face of Alston; Maggette or Mobley getting lost on a switch leaving Battier / Head / Alston wide-open).  Rockets had lost 3 in a row coming in without McGrady - Head and Alston stepped up, combining for a gaudy 40 points.  Yao got his (as expected) and their backcourt production (Bonzi also notched 12 on 50% shooting) was the difference in this game.    
  • Rockets end up shooting 39-74 (53%), and a disturbing 8-17 (47%) from 3.
  • Clippers were 2-6 (33%) from 3 – ugh, gross.
  • Daniel Ewing – he’s been playing OK, but now has the distinction of owning the single worst offensive possession in Clipper history.  In case you don’t remember it or missed it - 2nd quarter, 4:06 mark - Ewing dribbles in circles at just below mid-court for about 15 seconds, eventually ending the horror by turning the ball over (carrying).  I mean, wow, just… wow. 

To me, the afternoon served as yet another reminder that the 06/07 Clips are potentially a .500 team that will beat up on the little guys, and somewhat consistently lose to the elite teams.  Unless we can learn to put together a complete basketball game (that’s right, both ends of the floor) we are very unlikely to make the playoffs.  Sucks, but the rest of the West got better while we took a slight step back and are now riddled with injuries.  During his post-game interview, Brand noted:  "One of the things that's missing from last year are energy, defensive rotations, and the fire and will to win. We've got to get that back."  That’s more than one thing Elton (and Clipperblog has a few more if you’re listening) but yeah, basically, you’re spot on…

During the 4th quarter at Staples, jumbotron featured a Clips highlight reel (set to Gorillaz tune “Feel Good Inc”).  As I sat there watching glorious dunk after block after dunk after block, I thought to myself “wow, I really, really love these guys, we’re athletic, we have size, we have so, much, talent…”  Season’s still less than ½ over, and I think we’re starting to show some signs.  It’s been a rough stretch and things are looking grim, so this might be wishful thinking - but I still believe in this team (with or without Iverson), our talent, and I think, at the end of the day, we have heart.

C’mon guys – let’s get it together.  Let’s f’in do this.