After stinking it up in the previous game, Baron came back last night determined to make amends. Unfortunately, the rest of the Clippers came out determined to play crappy defense and do their best imitation of last year’s pitiful team. Memphis, who earlier this week had only won one game but had lost eight, shot an astounding 54% against your LA Clippers. Offensively, the Clippers were fine, they shot 47.6% which should be enough to win most games. Their three-point shooting is still off, as they shot only 20% for the long ball. The free-throw shooting was a pitiful 61% (actually that was Baron’s one weak point last night as he shot 60% on his freebies).
However, those aren’t what did the Clips in, it was the defense. I know, I know, how can I blame the defense when it didn’t even show up? It’d be like saying Blake Griffin screwed up last night. The only thing is that there was no report that the defense was ill or injured, so I expected it to be there.
The other way we seem to be trying to emulate last year’s team is through injuries. Marcus Camby left the game with back pains. This after of course Blake Griffin got injured pre-season, followed by Eric Gordon’s groin injury the other week, and unfortunately not capping it off, Kareem Rush’s season ending injury the last game. You know the injury bug is hitting again when Mardy Collins starts getting minutes. Heck, even Brian Skinner got onto the court for three minutes. Word is when he came on the floor he said, “Wait, which team am I on? I’ve been so busy napping on the bench that I didn’t even realize I was still in the NBA.”
Kaman’s rebounding still needs to improve. He only snagged 6 boards. DeAndre Jordan got one more than that in just 18 minutes. Even Al Thornton, playing a minute less than Kaman, got one more board than Chris. I guess the good side is the fact that those two guys did step up their rebounding game to off-set Kaman, but I’d still like Chris to be more aggressive on the boards.
Positive things? Well as I said, Baron came out strong. He shot 8-for-13 for 23 points, only took two threes, and made one of ’em. Craig “Rhino” Smith gave a nice offensive boost shooting 6-of-7 for 12 points. Kaman shot a solid 7-for-15. Al Thornton remained aggressive, but realized he wasn’t quite feeling it as much this night and wisely only took 9 shots (hitting 4 of them — so it ain’t like he was godawful or anything — he just wasn’t on fire). Butler also kept on playing within himself, only taking 9 shots (yes, he only hit 3 of ’em, but he’s gotta take shots to keep opposing Ds honest). Ricky Davis got extended minutes and also proved to be solid offensively, shooting over 50% and getting 12 points.
The thing is… all those positives I mentioned are on offense. If we ain’t gonna play D, then we’re gonna need to be phenomenal on offense, not just good. We’ve been playing D like the Golden State Warriors on a bad night. Everyone’s been clamoring for Mike Dunleavy’s head the last few years (& yes, I’ve been one of them). I actually think he’s improved his in-game substitutions as the season has moved along, but that’s not enough. He can’t get the players to buy in on defense. Sure you can say the team’s missing possibly it’s best defenders in Griffin & Gordon, but by the time they return there’s a real chance this team will have lost its mojo like last year. A lot of defense is effort, and if that effort ain’t there, it’s the coach’s fault. You can say, well, sometimes you don’t have the talent to be a good defensive team. If that’s the case, then the coach needs to realize that and just let ’em fly on O to try to simply outscore the other team (like the Warriors, Suns, last year’s Knicks, and the old versions of the Mavs & Kings earlier this decade). Change our identity, or change our coach.