There are countless ways to lose a basketball game, though the Clippers might exhaust that list by the end of the season. One of the most common ways — though one the Clips haven’t been all that susceptible to in recent seasons — is having your best player fail to drain shots. Baron Davis’ atrocious night from the field, along with some spectacular lapses on defensive rotations bump the Clippers to 1-9.
The Clippers play a fairly crisp game tonight. They work themselves some nice looks against a smart defensive team. Their coverages seem as tight as they’ve been in a while — even with the problems on the perimeter. The Clippers destroy the Spurs on the boards [47-36, including 14-5 on the offensive glass]. The 13 turnovers are manageable [a couple of them are offensive fouls]. Chris Kaman is able to find himself space to shoot his face-up 15-footer. He turns the ball over only once. Cuttino Mobley runs off 11 consecutive point at the start of the second half to keep the Clippers in the game. But Baron is awful.
His first couple of misses aren’t bad shots, even from 27 feet. On the first, George Hill runs underneath a little screen by Camby on a handoff. Baron almost seems surprised by the amount of space he has, but his shot falls shot off the front of the rim. The second miss comes when Hill is slow to recover off a switch with Tim Thomas. This leaves Baron plenty of room to step into the 27-footer. It’s short too. Baron finally connects from 17 when he posts up Jacque Vaughn, turns and shoots over him with that hair-trigger release.
But the shots get less logical as the game progresses. A lot of contested stuff early in the clock. He launches one airball and one near-airball. The first is a fall-away jumper from about 18 with :16 left on the shot clock toward the end of the first half. The second, despite being uncontested, is a horrible looking shot that has Baron splitting his legs on the release almost as if he were doing a jumping jack. There’s another stint when Baron misses three jumpers in 51 seconds during the 3rd quarter.
Then, of course, there’s the final sequence —
The game is tied 83-83 with :23.3 remaining. San Antonio has possession.
- Everyone in the building knows what’s coming: A high S/R with Tim Duncan and the Spurs’ best shooter. Tonight, that’s Roger Mason. At this point, he’s 8-15 from the field [2-4 from beyond the arc]. He holds the ball up top against Ricky Davis as the clock winds down. There’s about a five second differential between the shot and game clocks. With about :12/:07, Duncan finally comes up from from the low post. Camby follows him closely. The pick is solid — a thick wall to Davis’ left. Mason dribbles right and there’s no way R. Davis is getting around Duncan before Mason can find a warm spot on the arc. Another, even bigger problem: Camby overcommits left. By the time he can recover, Mason has elevated for the 3PA. Camby isn’t in close enough proximity to close. San Antonio 86, Clippers 83 with :08.4 remaining.
- The Clippers go with B. Davis, R. Davis, Mobley, Steve Novak, and Kaman. Mobley inbounds to Baron Davis. Novak sets the first screen for Davis, but Michael Finley quickly arrives to take Baron at the arc. Baron then leaves a dribble handoff for Ricky Davis. Ricky dribbles back up top — meanwhile Baron runs the clockwise around the arc, then curls around what’s supposed to be a baseline screen by Kaman. Kaman’s screen is ineffectual. It doesn’t even bump Vaughn, who’s doing stellar lock-and-trail work on Baron. Baron comes around that faux screen with Vaughn in pursuit. He spots up on the right side just in front of the Clippers’ bench. Ricky delivers a bounce pass to him at :01.4. Baron can’t get a clean look. The ball doesn’t catch iron; it just caroms off the glass.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the breakdowns in the perimeter rotations.