"This is getting pretty dull." - Ralph Lawler [4th, 8:08]
If I've done nothing else in the past 20 months on Clipperblog, I hope I've been able to convey the graceful choreography that is basketball. When played well, basketball is beautiful in its precision and a joy to watch - even if your team loses.
But when it's played poorly, it's torturous. And when its participants don't make even a minimal effort to aspire to the game's inherent elegance, it's fucking unwatchable.
The Clippers scored a scattershot 107 points against a very permissive Denver defense - 35 of them in the garbage 4th. The rest of the night, they clawed their way in the dark, employing no coherent strategy and little effort in trying to maximize their strengths against a superior team -- but one they plain out-umphed 10 days ago for a W.
Their third quarter possessions tonight [6 total FGMs]:
- A good enough start. Thomas sets an elbow screen for Brevin Knight. Camby shows, but neither he nor Iverson picks up Knight as he drives into the lane; the Clips' PG has a clear path to the hoop. Unfortunately, Knight couldn't finish a TV Guide crossword. He misses the floater.
- Allen Iverson has pretty much declared himself a defensive cipher. In transition, Knight breezes his way to the basket. This time, he converts.
- Off an inbound beneath the basket, the ball goes into Thomas in the corner. He barely draws rim from 20. The fact that the shot is contested by Camby doesn't help matters - but nobody runs anything to get Thomas a free look.
- TT runs a high S/R for Maggette. Thomas rolls nicely back to his spot on the arc. He sinks the 3PM.
- The Clips post up Kaman at Elton's spot. But there's a foul away from the ball. Start again.
Again the ball goes into Kaman - in the same spot. The double comes quickly. Kaman kicks it out to a wide open Knight at 15 feet. There isn't a Nugget anywhere in the vicinity, but Knight's shot is way long.
- The ball goes into Kaman at the right elbow. The double comes. Kaman finds a wide open Knight on the weak side. He misses a wide open 17 footer.
Notice a trend here?
- Mobley brings it down guarded by Iverson. He backs the little man down along the right post. The double-team comes. Mobley kicks it out to a wide open Knight - but this time, Knight passes up the shot and darts it over to Thomas in the corner. Thomas steps back for a 3PA, but misses.
- Brevin Knight steals the ball in the backcourt. He quickly gets it over to an open Maggette along the right arc. Corey ball-fakes a closing Anthony, who flies by him. Corey then nails the 3PM.
- Knight dribbles it up. He sends it over to Mobley in the right corner, guarded tightly by Anthony Carter. Mobley chucks it up contested from 24. Not close.
- Probably the most encouraging set of the quarter: Mobley dumps it into Kaman on the right block. The double-team closes, but this time, instead of hanging out at 14 feet where, you know, he can't hit a shot, Knight dives toward the hoop. [An actual adjustment]. Kaman finds Knight over his shoulder and Knight goes up for the layup, but is fouled by Carmelo Anthony. Knight hits 1 of 2.
- Kaman is on the bench now with four fouls.
The ball works its way sluggishly around the perimeter. Finally, Knight penetrates into the lane. As he enters the paint, he kicks it out to Mobley in the corner, from where he hasn't hit all night. He misses again.
- A Knight entry pass into a heavily guarded Mobley off the right block is almost stolen. Mobley recovers it and kicks it out to TT, who then passes it over to Williams out on the perimeter. Camby gives Williams the 18-footer and Williams takes it - and misses badly.
- Mobley dumps it into TT, with his back to the basket. Thomas steps back and, with Camby in his face, sends up a sorry looking 18-footer. No good.
- Thomas sets a high S/R for Maggette. Anthony and Thomas trap Maggette off the screen. With the ball, Maggette wiggles his way into the paint, but loses the ball. Nuggets in transition.
- Maggette takes a breather.
The ball takes another sluggish turn around the perimeter. Finally, Williams sets a little brush screen to free up Mobley, who pops out to about 20 feet. He misses again.
- Carmelo Anthony, dare I say it, is diligently defending Tim Thomas. Thomas dribbles the ball around the left side perimeter. And dribbling. With no real agenda. Finally he tries to take Anthony to the hoop, but the ball squirts out of bounds. Denver ball.
- In transition, Patterson takes it all the way to the hoop and converts the layup. Not pretty, but at least it's a FGA from inside 12 feet.
- Another trip around the perimeter. Pass-hold-hold---hold---pass-hold-hold-hold. Mobley then frees himself up to post in front of Thomas. It goes into Mobley. He hits a turnaround 14-footer over Carter.
Mobley, clearly suffering from his elbow injury, finishes the night 3-12 with only a single trip to the line [1-2]
- Again, Thomas into Mobley off the left block. This time Cat misses the shot over Carter.
- Patterson sets a high S/R for Mobley, but Mobley travels as he penetrates off the screen.
- Mobley has a mismatch against Kleiza. He drives on the big man and draws the foul. Mobley converts 1-2.
- In transition, Knight delivers a beautiful bounce pass to Mobley who is cutting along the baseline. Mobley converts the layup. Nice-looking break.
- Maggette gets a screen from Patterson up top, then finally gets what he's wanted all night - his first [and only] trip to the line. He sinks both.
- This is the m.o. for the Clips in the closing minutes of the period - give it to a guard up top, set a pick of variable quality, and hope for the best. I'm not knocking it per se, because it's an improvement on whatever they'd been doing. This time, Marcus Camby blocks Mobley's flailing shot and we go the other way.
- The Clips post Williams. Najera hacks him before the ball even arrives. We're in the penalty, so Williams shoots - and hits - two.
- On a missed FTA on the other end, Williams gets hacked. He comes down and hits both FTs.
- Final possession of the period. Maggette holds it up top and runs down the clock. With about 6.0, he takes Kleiza off the dribble; Najera converges, too and Corey puts up a wild shot and doesn't draw the foul.
Kaman's absence doesn't make things easy, but Denver is still a team that offers you opportunities to build possessions side-to-side and the Clippers failed to do so. The Clippers' transition defense was atrocious all night and got worse as the game spiraled away from them. Kaman actually went 6-7 from the field, but the double teams came quickly and feverishly, and he turned the ball over four times. I suspect that until Sam Cassell returns to marshal the Clippers' halfcourt offense, we won't see any teams even think twice about sending early double-teams at Chris.