Every couple weeks, we will run ClipperBlog Observations, a condensed version of Last Call. With the Clippers’ record standing at 19-9 and heading to Atlanta on Tuesday night, here is where our staff thinks the team stands.
It’s the Giving Season
It’s that time of the year when we’re all supposed to be helping one another, but you wouldn’t know from watching the Clippers’ defense. After another subpar performance Monday evening against the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles dropped to 17th in points allowed per possession, far below where a “championship contender” should reside. And it’s mainly because the Clippers aren’t promoting the holiday cheer. Unlike those who volunteer at the soup kitchen or donate to their favorite charities or doll out especially generous Christmas bonuses, this team isn’t helping.
There’s a concept in basketball, helping the helper, which makes all the difference on the defensive side. When the initial help defender rotates over to cover a new man, another teammate has to slide into position to “help the helper.” The Spurs, arguably the best offense in the NBA at taking advantage of teams who don’t help the helper well, consistently exploited those flaws in the Clippers defense all the way to 125 points. Blame it on communication or awareness or anything else, but the Clippers aren’t executing even like an above-average defense, and it’s far enough into the season that there should be some concern.
– Fred Katz, (@FredKatz)
What Do You Expect from Matt Barnes
The Clippers start Matt Barnes at small forward—a 2002 second-round pick who turns 35 in March. Barnes is on his eighth team, and before this season, came off the bench at least 23 games every season.
The Clippers have brought Barnes off the bench twice, and he’s locked in the starting lineup for the most part now. I’m sure people realize that Barnes shouldn’t be a starter at this point of his career, but I had to look at the makeup of the rest of the Western Conference regular starters at small forward. The results are jarring:
- The only starting small forward even close to Barnes’ age is Memphis’ Tayshaun Prince, a major liability at this point of his career. Prince turns 35 in February. But he’s only starting due to Tony Allen’s eye injury.
- The only other West starting 3s who weren’t first-round picks: Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Dallas’ Chandler Parsons. Of course, Ariza is 29 and Parsons is 26.
Even with that, Barnes has held on, and he’s played better in December, averaging 10.7 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. It’s a shame that he has to start, as he’d fix what has been an embarrassingly shallow second-unit. He’d be a great eighth man.
Barnes has struggled with the deep ball, missing his last eight from downtown over his previous four games. The Clippers better hope he can bust the slump, but what do you expect from the oldest regular starting SF in the conference?
– Law Murray, (@LawMurrayTheNU)
CP3’s Last Stand
Perhaps this is the season that Chris Paul is finished staring down at the rest of the bodies—standing as the point guard. John Wall gave him trouble in a blowout win in Washington. Paul couldn’t seem to combat Wall’s athleticism and quickness and struggled to the tune of six turnovers. Stephen Curry is having an MVP/Steve Nash season. Russell Westbrook is an alien robot forced to play basketball. Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Mike Conley are sniffing around as well.
That isn’t to say any of those point guards are better than Chris Paul, but the mantle of “Point God” is a debate worth having for the first time in a long time. After struggling against the Milwaukee Bucks’ length the first time, he annihilated them to the tune of 27 points Saturday night. The mid-range game is still sublime, the passing impeccable, and the defense a perfect blend of annoyance and stuffiness.
Paul’s game isn’t declining in a manner that warrants worry. His game allows him to age gracefully. He should sustain his worth as an elite playmaker for at least the next several seasons and an above-average one for even longer. But the point guard crop is coming. And the Los Angeles Clippers need Chris Paul even more at this stage of his career to keep him perched on the mountaintop he’s so accustomed to for what seems like forever.
– Andy Liu, (@AndyKHLiu)
Nobody expected a Messiah-like return, but when Chris Douglas-Roberts came back from injury, I thought there may be some improvement. His arrival in LA had hardly been spectacular (save for aesthetics: the short-shorts, the hair, the glasses).
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. He’s prone to missing point-blank layups, his jumper is flat, and he generally looks like he’s going to injure himself or others as he flails about the court.
In his four games since his return, CDR’s managed just 10 total points and and five total rebounds. Sadly, those statistics are inflated by the fact that he got up and about against his hometown Detroit Pistons (nine points, three boards in 22 minutes).
To add salt to the wound, Saturday night against the Clippers Jared Dudley put together the kind of game the club had hoped for last season (16 points on 7-for-12 shooting along with eight boards). Meanwhile, the haul from the Dudley dump: Ekpe Udoh and CDR had the unfortunate, but all too familiar stat lines of “DNP – coach’s decision”.
– Roscoe Whalan, (@RoscoeWhalan7)