Clippers X’s and O’s: Game 29 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder


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 Oklahoma City Thunder.

Despite a great effort on both ends of the floor, the Los Angeles Clippers lost another close game to a top-tier Western Conference opponent. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 100-99 on a Kevin Durant jumper with 5.9 seconds left.

Despite an impressive 32 points, 10 assists and five rebounds from Chris Paul, the Thunder outscored the Clippers by six in the fourth quarter en route to the victory.

The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook’s 33 points and Durant’s 24. Their scoring power was simply too much for the Clippers to handle, especially with Blake Griffin having an off night, shooting 7-for-21 from the floor.

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 Thunder film…

One of the Clippers’ go-to sets the past few years has been floppy.

The entire set is designed to free up J.J. Redick coming off a double screen and running out on the perimeter. Obviously, teams have had plenty of time to scout this set, but Doc Rivers inserted a little twist in this action early in the first quarter.

Jamal Crawford basically mucks up the baseline and tries to wall off either Andre Roberson or Durant to give Redick a step on either defender. Redick will read the defense and the two defenders on the baseline; which in this instance they actually switch.

Durant and Roberson face guard and are ready to switch depending on which way Redick squirts out.

Redick picks DeAndre Jordan’s side, and runs Durant off a screen to the left wing. Instead of trailing, Durant tries to jump over the screen and force Redick baseline.

Unfortunately for Durant, he fell right into the Clippers’ trap.

Redick pump fakes and drives right. Jordan slides over and catches Durant on a screen he wasn’t anticipating, forcing Steven Adams to jump out at Redick as he rises for a shot. This allows Jordan an easy path to the rim, Redick jump-passes and Roberson’s help-side defense is far too late. Jordan slams home an easy two.

For comparison, here is the Clippers’ standard version of their floppy action.

Having run this set into a side pick-and-roll in the first quarter, the action looks identical. Not to mention, Durant unsuccessfully tries to go over the screen again in order to disrupt the initial pass to Redick.

Redick does a great job getting Durant mixed up in the paint again and then runs right off Jordan’s shoulder to eliminate any trail angle from Durant. This time, he immediately goes up in rhythm for the three.

The last thing to note is that Redick doesn’t continue around the screen. Once he hits the three-point line, he puts on the brakes, receives the pass and basically shoots the ball from the same spot he ran off the screen, just extended beyond the arc.

This entire scenario is an art form which Redick has mastered. He is one of the best in the league at running off a pick, turning and reading the defense. He is quick, decisive and has such a quick release he is nearly impossible to defend off screens without help.

Overall, the Clippers were solid defensively against the Thunder, barring the fourth-quarter collapse.

One adjustment Lawrence Frank and Rivers’ have made to the team’s defensive schemes is to switch wing-to-big ball screens. In fact, you will even see Griffin switch onto guards as well.

This video is a great example of Griffin’s versatility and his improved defense. The first action is a Serge Ibaka screen for Westbrook. Per the Clippers’ defensive coverages, Griffin sags and shades towards Westbrook until Paul recovers.

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Griffin shows his footwork, closing out on Ibaka (a good mid-range shooter) and breaking down into a stance, ready for him to attack off the dribble. He then pressures the ball and Ibaka turns to setup a side screen for Durant.

Luc Mbah a Moute and Griffin recognize the screen and immediately switch. What this does is cause less tension on the defense, especially help-side. Because the Clippers are not hedging screens, it puts the onus on the man defending the ball to limit penetration, saving a rotation from the weak-side.

Griffin squares up and is ready to contest Durant’s patented three off hesitation, but also keeps his feet moving. He beats Durant to the spot off the dribble, strips the ball and forces Durant to recover and take a bad shot late in the possession.

This is the type of effort and dedication the Clippers have needed from Griffin defensively. He has the quickness to stick with guards and the size to limit opposing wings from driving to the basket.

A surprise contributor last night, Rivers made it known before the game that Cole Aldrich would see time as the reserve center. He certainly didn’t disappoint.

Aldrich put in work during his 14 minutes of floor time, registering five points, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

However, the highlight of the night was his sequence above.

Not only did he take on a charging Westbrook, only to recover and swat his layup off the backboard, but he then raced down the floor and received a pass from Wesley Johnson for a slam. Quite an impressive 14-second sequence.

In reality though, Aldrich should be capable of playing limited minutes behind Jordan. He does a good job on the glass, according to Basketball-Reference, pulling down 19.3 percent of available rebounds while on the floor during his career.

Additionally, he also has proven to be a good shot blocker, swatting away 5.7 percent of shots on average, and forcing turnovers (1.7 steal percentage).

He made the most of his opportunity and should see more playing time over the next few games.

Finally, we end with a key possession in the game. Down one, with the ball, the Clippers have a chance to take back the lead with 26 seconds left.

Redick runs off a decoy screen to open the right side of the floor for a Paul and Griffin pick-and-roll.

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The first problem comes when Griffin isn’t able to set a screen on Westbrook. Paul navigates around Griffin and towards his hot spot at the right elbow. With Westbrook on his hip, he is unable to pull for a shot.

Ibaka recognizes that he does not need to help on the drive, so he is able to stay closer to Griffin, eliminating a lob or any post-up opportunity. The Thunder defend this beautifully, with Roberson not helping off Redick on the weak-side and Durant not helping off Johnson one pass away.

Now Paul is forced to kick out to a rotating Redick, who has a clean look atop the three-point line, but pump fakes and drives right into the Thunder defense.

Westbrook dives down and swats the ball loose and the possession is a disaster.

Next: Clippers by the numbers: Blake Griffin's dominance

The Thunder defended exceptionally well, but two errors (the screen and Redick not taking the shot) cost the Clippers dearly on another late-game possession. For whatever reason, the Clippers have been unable to execute in crunch-time situations, which has cost them some big wins, but most notably momentum.