Clippers X’s and O’s: Game 11 vs. Golden State Warriors


To continue his Los Angeles Clippers X’s and O’s series, Jeff Nisius breaks down the film of key plays from their latest game against the Golden State Warriors.


That is the only way to describe the Los Angeles Clippers’ 117-124 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

It all started out so well. Chris Paul scored 18 points in the first quarter and the Clippers led by 23 at one point in the first half.

However, the Warriors were just too good late in the game. Their defense locked the Clippers down and hit eight of nine threes in the fourth quarter alone.

Stephen Curry scored a game high 40 points and the Warriors hit an astounding 17 threes during the game. Meanwhile, Paul scored 35 points to go along with eight assists and Blake Griffin scored 27 points.

There was a lot of good to take away from contest, despite the blown lead. The Clippers defense was engaged early and the offense was clicking most of the night. However, the Warriors are simply too good right now.

This article series will focus on analyzing the Clippers x’s and o’s, breaking down key plays from each end of the floor. The goal here is to take a seat inside the coaches film room and see what the team executed well and where the breakdowns were.

Let’s get started with the Clippers and Warriors film…

First, Doc Rivers and his coaching staff know the Warriors well. They also have changed their defense a bit this year. But I loved the way the team focused on pressuring the ball on the perimeter. This was obviously a focus of the game plan and was executed quite well for a majority of the game.

However, watching this clip, you will notice Jamal Crawford is not going to pressure Andre Iguodala (a common theme all night). Make no mistake, that was Crawford’s assignment, to sag off the ball, because he does not move well enough to maintain pressure, turn his feet and slide on dribble-drive attacks.

As Curry passes the ball up to Iguodala, Festus Ezeli is playing high up on the floor. Curry sets a screen for Iguodala to make a basket cut off his pass to Ezeli.

Next, Curry slides right and has the option to set up Austin Rivers, who did a great job all night applying pressure, for a screen or take him off the dribble. You will also notice DeAndre Jordan play up on the screen, respecting Curry’s shooting and closing down his dirving lane. Ezeli eventually slips the pick-and-roll, seeing that Curry wants to drive left.

Thanks to Rivers’ quickness, he is able to slide left with Curry, cut off his drive and force him back into Jordan’s help defense. Ezeli does a great job of sealing Jordan high in the paint so Curry has a lane to the rim, but Josh Smith recognizes Curry’s drive and does a great helping off his man in the corner for a rejection of Curry at the rim.

Playing Smith at power forward instead of center allows him to come over for a weak-side block, which he has excelled at his entire career.

This is another great example of the Clippers picking up Curry early in the possession. Rivers pressures up on him as soon as he crosses half court.

Next, we see Draymond Green set a down screen for Harrison Barnes, who is being defended by Crawford. As Barnes receives the Curry pass at the top of the break, Curry immediately sprints into what was going to result in a double screen on the strong-side of the floor and then a third screen on the opposite side by Ezeli.

Watch how the Clippers defend this set, which they were obviously ready for. Rivers recognizes the staggered screen and calls for a switch with Klay Thompsons’ defender, Wesley Johnson.

Johnson sees Curry flying around the baseline and immediately picks him up, locks and trails over the Ezeli screen. When Curry catches and turns, he can see Johnson within rage to block his shot and immediately decides to try to beat Jordan with a jump pass to Ezeli.

However, Jordan is not helping on this screen due to the switch. Instead, he sticks with his man, intercepts the Curry pass and the Clippers are out in transition.

Not only was this a very good defensive possession, but Johnson being on the floor allows for these switches on the fly. He is a solid defender, has a good basketball IQ and has the quickness and length to make an impact against small-ball lineups.

Frankly, he needs to play more.

This is a microcosm of what went wrong for the Clippers’ defense in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors reserves are in the game against what I would consider a suspect Clippers lineup of Rivers at the point, Crawford at shooting guard, Paul Pierce at small forward, Smith at power forward and Jordan in the middle.

My problem with this possession is that the Warriors are simply running their motion offense and still confuse the defense. As the possession progresses, we see Iguodala with the ball up top and Ezeli setting a screen on Pierce so Barnes can rotate up and receive the pass.

Ezeli turns and seals Jordan and Barnes feeds him in the post. Ezeli isn’t much of a threat this far away from the basket, which means something else is coming. Barnes turns to screen Rivers, who is defending Ian Clark, and he slips the screen, heading back door down the lane.

Pierce is in good help-side position and Jordan is pressuring the ball, which eliminates any pass to Clark. For some reason, Pierce loses focus and turns to look at the cut, losing sight of Barnes, who fades up top for a wide open three.

The Clippers simply lost focus defensively and the Warriors made them pay the entire fourth quarter.

There really isn’t much to break down about this play, but there is a reason I am including it.

This was one of Jordan’s two—yes only two—baskets. The Warriors may play a lot of small ball, but they can match up with Jordan via Ezeli or Andrew Bogut. When neither are in the game Jordan must make Draymond Green pay for being smaller than him.

The problem is the Clippers aren’t going to run many plays for him on the block and he isn’t going to create in the post on his own.

Considering the Warriors are making a run by shredding your defense and Jordan isn’t scoring, Rivers must adjust; but he didn’t.

Griffin at center is the logical move, with Johnson subbing in for Jordan. That provides length, floor spacing, defense and the ability to post Griffin one-on-one with four shooters around him.

The Clippers’ lead is fading and the Warriors have been heating up from deep. Here, we see Rivers decides to turn up the pressure on the guards, especially Curry.

The Warriors push the pace in transition and Curry brings the ball down the left side of the floor. The secondary action results in Ezeli setting a trail screen on Paul, hoping to free up Curry.

This time, Jordan hedges and pressures Curry, forcing him off the three-point line and continuing his drive. Jordan shows off his quickness by sticking with him around the floor, resulting in a late kick to Barnes in the corner.

Pierce sprints out of his help-side position and runs Barnes off the line, forcing him back into the middle of the floor. Next, Paul stunts at Barnes following his trail of Curry and and Jordan picks up the help in the middle of the floor once again. Barnes has no shot and tries to slide a bounce pass to Marreese Speights, which cruises out of bounds for a turnover.

This is a great defensive possession that shows just how much of an impact Jordan can have when he is engaged defensively.

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However, when Jordan loses focus, the Clippers usually give up an easy basket. Granted, this is an extremely difficult play to defend, but Jordan blew his assignment.

The Warriors were up one point with 69 seconds to play and have a corner baseline out of bounds set drawn up.

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My issue is that Rivers has decided not to pressure the ball, for some odd reason, considering this is a difficult spot to pass from. Instead, Jordan has his back to the ball and is anticipating a quick three instead of a cutter to the basket.

Thompson cuts to the rim while Curry draws the defense to the middle of the floor. It is hard to see with all the commotion, but the Warriors are setting up an elevator set, which lets Curry run through a closing double screen at the three-point line.

Paul does a great job of fighting through the screens and Griffin properly jumps on top of the near screen, cutting off a passing lane to Curry.

Unfortunately, the Warriors staff anticipated this coverage and the actual set is designed for Green to slip the screen and roll the the rim. Jordan, for some reason, jumps the high-side of the screen with Griffin, which allows Green an uncontested layup.