Apart from Ruben Patterson and the Knight Cook, most of the team's rotation got minutes tonight. There were brief moments of watchability that produced the following observations:
- Chris Kaman appears quicker, more confident, and more focused than at any time last season. He converted 8-9 from the floor - against double-teams, popping out to beyond 15 feet, and in traffic. Chris also set a flurry of firm screens tonight. I'll take the three turnovers [the fourth was an offensive foul on an assertive move in the post] with the four blocked shots. What's more, there were at least two other occasions when Kaman had complete position on the block but the guys on the wing didn't recognize it.
- The Clips still know how to post up smaller guards. Sam Cassell went to work early on Monte Ellis, and Cuttino Mobley followed suit.
- Sam looked good. He's still a disaster defensively, but with Q on the ball, the Clips can hide Sam somewhat in the halfcourt. Down the stretch, with the Clippers mounting a comeback in a meaningless game, Cassell was amped - pumping his fist overhead, shouting orders, and generally resuming his role as union boss.
- Paul Davis is a professional basketball player. Somebody worked on his face-up jumper this offseason. What impressed me most about Davis tonight was his defensively play on the block. Golden State isn't exactly a monster team in the post, but Davis still had to deal with a 7' 2" Serb and slashers careening toward him. And seven rebounds in 23 minutes is a good night's work.
- Corey didn't have a particularly good game [or a bad one], but the Clips ran some quality cross-screens below the stripe to get Corey some shots...at least in the first quarter.
- The Clips sank 27-28 from the line.
- The team still doesn't have any shooters. It was sag city all night from Golden State. Kaman did yeoman's work tonight against double-teams, but without anyone on the wings who can shoot consistently, the Clippers are in for a long season.
- Thornton is sort of lost in the halfcourt offense, and it's not entirely - or even largely - his fault. When he's in the game for Maggette at the 3, he's left alone on the weak side. And because there's rarely any need for defenders to double low on the strong side against the Clips, Thornton is just left out to pasture. In the past, when Maggette was left out on the arc, he could count on his man being lured away at some point in the set to help on Elton. But in a static halfcourt offense alongside Dickau, Mobley, Powell, and Davis, there's just nothing for Thornton to do. On a couple of occasions, he tried to set up down low, but had a lot of trouble establishing position. That'll come with time, but right now he just doesn't have the strength or guile to post up a bigger man.
Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, Thornton drew Austin Croshere - a perfect mismatch for his athleticism. But herein lies the problem: It's not like Sam, Corey, and the rest of the vets are going to turn the game over to him just because he has the best matchup on the floor.
Please understand that this isn't a criticism of Thornton. But when a game has settled to a slow pace and there are few transition opportunities, something needs to be done to give the kid a couple of shots. The good news is that he has a lightning quick release and can get himself looks if someone is working for him off the ball. But there's not much Thornton can do fifteen feet away from the ball out in Siberia on the weak side.
Defensively, Thorton was disoriented on the switch in the first half...but he got better as the game progressed. That's all you can ask for. That's a fair characterization of Davis' night too...and it's probably not a coincidence. It tends to work that way.
- It's a lot harder to trap on the perimeter with Kaman when there's no Elton Brand patrolling the baseline. Dunleavy seems intent to continue this tack, but he needs to realize that Tim Thomas is his new power forward. Since that's the case, there's really no reason Chris Kaman should ever be drifting out to the arc to chase Monte Ellis around.
- When you watch Dan Dickau, it becomes clear how many ways he hurts your basketball team when he's on the floor. I mean, can you really have Dickau setting screens at the elbow for Chris Kaman?? Dickau is like a pinball in the halfcourt offense and an absolute liability defensively.