With the Wizards and the Clippers squaring off, it’s hard not to think of “What if Blake Griffin and John Wall played on the same team?” It’s not to hard to imagine, the Clippers overcame similar odds in 2009 when they drafted Blake Griffin, and had that happened in 2010, we might have seen more of this:
Can you imagine the alley-oops? The efficiency of VDN’s PnRs? The Dougie-ing? The team would have been mind-bending and fun to watch.
Instead, the two are separated onto low end teams that, even if they combined their wins, would only have 44 wins, fewer than the Spurs (57), Lakers (51), Mavericks (49), Thunder (45), Celtics (51), Bulls (50), Heat (48) and Magic (45). The game between the Wiz and the Clips relegates its interest to the forgotten fan bases of the Wizards and the Clippers and NBA fans attracted to esoterica (Rookie of the Year Candidates! Two consecutive number 1 picks! The Wiz might be the worst road team ever with their 1 and 32 away record! Elgin Baylor is from D.C. and he used to be GM for the Clippers!).
Keys to the Game
– John Wall. No surprise here. Despite losing by 21 points at home, the Wizards didn’t lose because of John Wall. He scored 25 points on 9 for 23 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds and doled out 8 assists. Wall isn’t the best shooter, as evidenced by his shooting in the last game, but he gets to the rim with shocking efficiency and he plays surprisingly good defense for a young point guard (1.7 steals per game). The Clippers will benefit from a game plan with Wall, with hard hedges on the pick and roll, because Wall is way less efficient far from the basket (shoots under 30 percent outside of 3 feet) and his teammates are banged up or just plain bad.
– Get Blake and Eric Gordon back. Blake has been in a constant downward trend since the zenith of his play in January (when he averaged 26 points and 13.4 rebounds). He hasn’t had double digit rebounds in the last 7 games (6.9 rebounds during that stretch) and his field goal attempts are down as well (15.5 attempts in those 7 games compared to 16.6 over the course of the season). Blake won’t get the same amount of touches now that Mo, Kaman and Gordon are all playing, but how the Clippers deploy his talents should be better used. Blake’s post game has been functional, if limited, all season. He has a small repertoire, but the league has caught on and Blake’s athleticism has been the reason he continues to get buckets. He works very well moving, so the pick and rolls need to stay around, but would it hurt to see some off ball screens that would open him up at the high post where he can use his dribbling abilities to break down his man? He could also pass the ball from the high post, where he’s been most effective, often getting Gordon open threes. This is where VDN comes in, he needs to figure out a few plays that expand Blake’s threats without him learning a new move, just a simple cut, screen or misdirection. And if VDN were to include Eric in those plays, that might kick start Gordon too. I’m not as worried about Gordon, because he has played well in two of his three games back from injury (I’m counting the Houston game when Mo first arrived), but Gordon and Griffin need to be the focal point, which hasn’t been the case in the recent losses. I like Kaman but he’s a second or third option now (a reason why I like him coming off the bench for 25-32 minutes a game). One of the points of the Baron trade was to re-center the team around Gordon and Blake, now the Clippers should do it.
– Jordan Crawford. I could probably pick something more tangible out, but I just have this gut feeling that with Crawford in the starting lineup and the way he relentlessly attacks, that he’ll be a factor in this game. Since coming over to the Wizards in the Hinrich trade, Crawford has averaged 12.9 points per game. Yes, it’s been on 13.2 field goal attempts per game, but his tenacity, the confidence boost from starting and his relatively low profile gives me the feeling that he’ll be the guy that slips through the cracks against the Clippers. I hope I’m wrong.
DeAndre Jordan: pneumonia, questionable
Nick Young: sore left knee, day-to-day
Andray Blatche : shoulder, out
Josh Howard: knee, out
Rashard Lewis: knee, out