DeAndre Jordan helps Clippers’ bench step up in win vs. Suns


The Los Angeles Clippers are still a working progress with various lineup matters to deal with, but the fact of the matter is that they’re still 4-0 and playing at a high level for a team with so many new faces. We’ve seen Lance Stephenson step in as starting small forward which has helped both him and the Clippers, and we’ve seen Doc Rivers try multiple lineups in an attempt to find which ones deliver the most success. There’s just so much experimentation available for a team with this much depth and versatility. And on Monday night, we saw exactly how DeAndre Jordan could be a key to helping this new bench.

As the Clippers went to Phoenix to defeat the Suns 102-96, they looked a little different to how they have so far this season. Blake Griffin wasn’t busy dropping 30 and Chris Paul only had five assists. In fact, the team didn’t play all that well at times, especially after shooting just 29.6 percent from three and letting the Suns test them throughout and claim a third quarter lead.

More from Clippers News

But at the end of the night, that didn’t matter. The bench took a step forward on Monday, and with a collective input from the entire second unit, they played with enough energy to take a bulk of the load for the starters. Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce both played over 20 minutes, while Josh Smith, Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson all received at least 14. Their increased roles led to Jordan, Griffin and J.J. Redick all playing less than 31 minutes, which rightfully made Doc a happy man. Following the game, he said, “We never had minutes like that last year. So that’s fantastic for us overall” (per Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times). As the coach said, they never had that kind of rest for the starters last year. It can go an awful long way in keeping them rested throughout another long season.

The Clippers’ entire second unit combined for 41 points to outscore the Suns’ backups total of only 29, and put together a vital 15-0 run in the third quarter to take out Phoenix’s eight point lead.

They certainly can’t receive all the credit, though. Yes, they played with great energy and solid efficiency. However, a major factor that allowed the bench to find a new kind of success and spark that third quarter run was Doc’s decision to play Jordan with them.

And it certainly paid off.

Josh Smith is a bit temperamental when it comes to checking in at center. He has great explosiveness, speed, and agility to cover players towards the perimeter and from mid-range. Not to mention, he’s a top help defender when it comes to flying through the air to protect the rim. That’s part of the reason why he’s averaging two blocks in just 14.5 minutes per game so far this season, which equates to an extortionate five rejections per 36 minutes.

Obviously, those numbers won’t last, but the fact is that he’s still a great defender. He held opponents to just 46.4 percent shooting at the rim last season and forced players to shoot an entire -8.6 percent lower than normal within 10 feet (per’s Player Tracking).

The problem, however, is that he can’t always be relied upon to protect the rim from the post and serve as a defensive anchor down low to control the boards. As we saw when the Clippers faced the Sacramento Kings and DeMarcus Cousins, Smith just can’t match-up against elite centers in one-on-one situations in the post.

This is where the All-Defensive first team play of DeAndre Jordan comes into the equation.

November 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) reacts after scoring a basket against the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan recorded a +/- of +10 in the Clippers’ win over the Suns, which just so happened to be the highest of any player in the game (besides Johnson’s +15 after he came in at opportune moments). More than any other part of the game, though, Jordan made the biggest impact when he served as a defensive anchor for the second unit. Rather than relying on the small ball lineup of Rivers, Crawford, Johnson, Pierce and Smith too often, Doc also utilized Jordan with them at center (who finished with seven points, nine rebounds and three blocks).

It gave the Clippers’ bench someone to dominate the paint, which is something they simply don’t have with a frontcourt consisting of Pierce and Smith. Furthermore, with Jordan already averaging 13.5 rebounds and a league best 4.5 blocks per game this season, he’s in top form to backup the new guys defensively.

At this early stage of the season, Jordan has a stingy defensive rating of 85 to go along with an offensive rating of 119. In other words, his high flying defense and limited yet efficient offensive input of nine points on 82.4 percent shooting has been one of the key reasons why the Clippers are sitting at 4-0.

On Monday night, that kind of impact held together the bench as their energy soared in the third quarter and they quickly removed the Suns’ eight point lead. Jordan’s ability to make stops on defense allowed the athletic likes of Rivers, Johnson and Smith to constantly break out in transition for easy baskets. On top of that, the more stops Jordan gets, the more possessions the bench has. It sounds obvious, but it gives them more chances to improve their half court offense. Simple, yet vital.

It’s not all defense, though. Jordan can also give them a new aerial option in the fast break, too.

Next: Clippers X's and O's: Episode 1

They stepped up against the Suns, but while the bench still needs to improve their ball movement and off-ball play while guys like Crawford or Rivers are in control, they need someone to hold them together. DeAndre Jordan can be that man. Even if he can’t hit free throws and he does little more than dunk on offense, DeAndre Jordan can be that man.

He proved on countless possessions against Phoenix that he can anchor the paint to create more fast break opportunities and remove the pressure from Smith of operating as the undersized center in the paint. If the latter moves to power forward, they can find far more success together than a complete small ball lineup will at times. That approach just seems like too much pressure on players who are still finding their rhythm together offensively.

More from Clipperholics

They need time to improve in the half court, and regardless of their four wins, that much is still perfectly evident. On too many plays where one player dominates the ball (specifically Crawford), the rest of the second unit seems too tempted to stand idly by and wait for him to try and score. Rather than set screens or keep the offense fluid, they wait. That needs to change. Movement needs to be increased, they need to up the tempo, and they need to move the ball.

Those are the ways that the’ve been most effective so far. They just need to become more cohesive and more consistent.

In the meantime, they need someone to hold them together defensively so they aren’t lost at both ends of the floor. Thankfully, they have Jordan for that. And until the bench becomes more polished offensively, Doc should look to the Clippers’ All-NBA center to keep things together in the paint.

As we saw Monday, it’s starting to work already.