In the first half, the Clippers do a better job of moving the ball side to side, largely because, with EB's absence, there's no lynchpin on the ball side for that drop play.  Sometimes Chris sets up at Elton's spot on the left elbow, and we see more penetration from Maggette and Livingston than usual[1].  Neither Shaun nor Corey has a super game, though Maggette works his way to the line for five pairs of free throws (9-10).  Corey has a difficult time getting to the hoop all night because there's little disincentive for the Detroit defenders not to collapse on the interior.  When Elton is on the floor, his man has to stay home.  When Elton is getting treatment on his back, that's not so much an issue.  To Corey's credit, when the Pistons plug up Corey's driving lane, he chooses to back out and reset a number of times[2].  Corey has only one turnover, as well as a botched, easy layup on a break. 

If you're a defender chasing around a shooting guard, it's exceedingly difficult to get past a Tim Thomas screen.  With Phoenix in the postseason, we saw how seemingly every possession for the Suns started with a Thomas high S/R, followed by either a fade or a dive/drag toward the basket.  It's more effective in a frenetic offense, but the Clips don't use him enough [or he doesn't take enough initiative...who knows anymore?] on the strong side.  Instead, the Clippers rely on this popular [and increasingly antiquated] notion that somehow, if Thomas stands out on the arc, he'll effectively "spread the floor," as if his defender can't sag if Cassell has dribbled to the far left corner -- where he traditionally likes to back down his defender --- or even if Elton has the ball in the low post against a much larger defender over whom he can't zip a pass out to the far side perimeter.  In this game, Thomas was more present on the strong side.  Early, he repeatedly creates room for Mobley on the arc.  He also sets himself up for kick-outs off Maggette's penetration[3]. But even then, 'Sheed does a solid job yielding TT just enough room, but not so much that it disrupts Detroit's zone[4], or prevents 'Sheed from filling the lane on a drive.  TT gets some nice looks from beyond the arc, but goes 3-10 from beyond, and 3-13 overall. 

Chris Kaman has a nice night, taking advantage of the one advantage the Clips have offensively over the Pistons' defense -- Chris Webber.  In the second quarter, Dunleavy actually goes to Kaman with Paul Davis, something he did last year at times when he paired up Chris with Rebraca, allowing Kaman to operate essentially as a PF.  Chris moves well around the basket and, when he's afforded some room, tends to appear more comfortable.  He needs to learn to do it in a more crowded frontcourt. 

The Clippers' team defense really starts to break down when the Pistons' starters return in the second.  Livingston and Maggette get crossed up on an off-ball switch, yielding a wide-open Rip Hamilton three.  While the ball is into McDyess down low, Hamilton runs a perfect screen for Wallace to pop out, leaving Kaman and Shaun completely confused.  Under the basket, Prince inbounds it to Webber out on the right wing, who immediately zips it back to Prince for an easy dunk, as Corey falls asleep --- somehow thinking that he's more helpful doubling Webber (with Thomas) 17 feet from the basket, than taking Prince underneath.  The Clippers spend most of the second half running into Piston screens.  I know that Detroit isn't an exciting team to watch in the PHX sense, but they do so many things well on the court that it's hard not to derive pleasure from their perfectly executed sets.  They get so, so much out of what's basically an average roster. 



[1] Which makes sense, because there's absolutely nobody on the Pistons that a Clipper guard can post up.  Mobley tries against Delfino in the second quarter, but even that doesn't yield much.  Maggette, too, tries Delfino later in the half, to no avail. 

[2] Five of Corey's 10 attempts were jumpers from beyond 17 feet, as were two of his three FGMs. 

[3] If Corey could proficiently pass the ball out, it would make for a crisper series, but that conversation is tiresome. His game is his game. 

[4] Given Flip and the fact that we all knew coming in that the Clips would have to rely on penetration, I thought we'd see the zone as the Pistons' default mode defensively.  That wasn't entirely the case.