When looking at the Clippers’ defensive woes over the last 5 games, it can be easy to forget how the defense showed signed of improvement in the four games prior to the All-Star break. Given the injuries and variation in lineups thus far, it might even be forgivable if one forgot that the dominant 14-2 start the team had was part of this same season. For at least one half of the game, though, they showed glimpses of being that team once more.
Chicago was held to just 30 points on the second half. Some of that was the Bulls cooling off after finding the midrange in the first 24 minutes. At the same time, the Clippers found ways to be more aggressive, both in defending high-percentage opportunities and forcing the Bulls to turn the ball over. The result: a final two quarters where the Bulls shot only 3/11 from the restricted area while committing 13 turnovers.
X-Factor: Jamal Crawford carried the second unit with 25 points on 10-17 shooting, making rainbow jumpers as if on command. No other player on the second unit was able to score more than 4 points. With him carrying the offensive load, however, they were still able to push the second-half lead as high as 16 points in the 4th quarter.
🔥 cant stop wont stop 🔥 pic.twitter.com/umyiX1yU7U
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 5, 2017
Major Moment: Four of the first six baskets of the 4th quarter were scored by Jamal Crawford, who overall would tally 12 points in the final frame. It appeared as though the second unit might be able to finish out the contest, but a late rally brought back most of the starters at the 4:18 mark of the period. While it would have been ideal for the team to rest the starters for the rest of the game, the later-than-usual substitution still stands as a vast improvement from the early calls they’ve had in many games over the last week.
Key Lineups: Luc Mbah a Moute had his twelfth double-digit scoring game of the season, scoring 12 points on 5/6 shooting. His presence was especially critical on the defensive end. Among the three most used lineups against the Bulls, the two Clippers lineups involving Mbah a Moute saw net ratings of at least 16.8. For the contest, he finished with a net rating of 26.4.
The Definition: Outside of Crawford’s hot night, the Clippers bench has continued to struggle offensively. Some of this is their continued offensive slump; some of this is a matter of adjustment with the return of Chris Paul. For the night, their defense took the step forward that it has needed.