Clippers X’s and O’s: How L.A. won the showdown vs. Thunder

March 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) shoots against the defense of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Randy Foye (6) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
March 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) shoots against the defense of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Randy Foye (6) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

To continue his Los Angeles Clippers X’s and O’s series, Jeff Nisius breaks down the film of key plays from their best win of the season over the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

The Los Angeles Clippers played 40 minutes of uninspired, lazy and just flat out bad basketball. However, those last eight minutes showed that this team has as much heart as any, storming back from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to win and climb within 1.5 games of the third place Oklahoma City Thunder.

Wesley Johnson and DeAndre Jordan made big play after big play in the final eight minutes, ruining what looked like a completed obliteration by the hands of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

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.

This first set is a popular one run around the league, especially by the Clippers. The premise is to confuse the three defenders at the point of attack on who is being screened and where the true action is heading.

Here we see Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams both setup perpendicular to the rim above the key. Westbrook dribbles towards an Adams flat screen, while Ibaka waits behind him. The extra man in the area, and flat screen, make it impossible for Chris Paul to ice the screen, because Westbrook makes the decision on which side to attack.

As Westbrook attacks left, Jordan sags off Adams to protect the rim. Meanwhile, Johnson has no choice but to stick to Ibaka, because if he helps Ibaka has an open three. Paul goes over what is essentially a double screen and Jordan has to step up to cut off penetration.

The problem for the Clippers is that J.J. Redick is being forced to help from the weak-side corner, but the Thunder have spaced the floor and put Dion Waiters (36.4 percent from three) in that slot. Redick has to help, otherwise Adams has an easy lob.

Westbrook sees Redick help, zips the ball to Waiters and he buries an open three.

The issues with the Clippers is their lack of size defending this set. Johnson is forced to play power forward, which leaves Jamal Crawford and Redick to defend the wings. Neither is going to slow down Adams rolling to the paint unless they help early and hold their ground.

While the Thunder’s size and length at nearly every position was a problem all night on both ends of the floor, the Clippers didn’t do much to help themselves.

Paul calls for a horns set with Jordan screening and Crawford spacing the vacated portion of the floor above the break. Ibaka is defending Jordan and sees the screen coming. Instead of sagging, the Thunder are tilting their defense towards Paul’s movement.

Randy Foye sags off Crawford to help Ibaka on middle penetration, while Waiters and Durant stay attached to the block to help at the rim, knowing they can use their length to contest jumpers on the perimeter.

Paul is forced to kick to Austin Rivers, whom Durant is playing off, and the ball is reversed. Since the Thunder stymied that ball-screen action, everyone is still matched up one-on-one as the shot clock winds down. The defenders know they can anticipate isolation attacks this late in the shot clock and aren’t worried about Crawford or Redick getting to the rim.

All the defenders stay home on Redick’s drive, giving no help as it isn’t needed, and Redick is forced to toss up a floater. This possession was replicated by the Thunder a majority of the first half. There was no ball movement, no side-to-side action and the offense was stalled by a good defense.

There isn’t much to breakdown tactically in this clip. The Clippers ramped up their defensive intensity in the second half and it allowed them to cut into the lead in the third quarter, preventing the Thunder from running away with an easy win.

You can see the strong defense and team being dialed in during this clip. That is, until a shot goes up.

Watch all four defenders not contesting the shot watch the ball float through the air, turn their backs and stand waiting for a rebound. Instead of boxing out their man and attacking the rebound, Kyle Singler is allowed to literally walk into the paint between four defenders and grab the offensive rebound, TWICE on one possession.

That kind of effort and attention to detail when the shot goes up is simply not good enough for a team with championship aspirations, let alone one attempting to make a comeback in a huge regular season contest.

Earlier I broke down the Thunder’s version of this set with Durant off the floor. This is the Clippers’ version, which is absolutely lethal thanks to the threat of Jordan attacking the rim and Redick popping out for three.

The only difference in the two sets is that Redick draws the attention instead of Paul coming off a screen. Jordan and Redick do a great job of mixing up whether the action is going to be a pick-and-roll or Redick circling off a screen and jumping out for a three.

The Thunder get mixed up, resulting in Adams switching on Redick and Andre Roberson on Jordan. Paul attacks away from Redick, which forces Roberson to jump out off the Jordan screen and hedge. Jordan sees this and immediately darts towards the rim for an easy catch and slam.

Finally, this is a beautiful defensive possession from the Clippers.

Earlier in the game, the Thunder were using the Clippers’ length against them, forcing small guards to rotate all the way across the lane to stop or help against their actions. The only way an undersized team can match the Thunder’s length is to beat them to their spot on the floor, which is exactly what happens.

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Here we see Durant attacking right off an Ibaka screen. Jordan and Johnson switch assignments and Jordan does a great job sliding his feet and sticking to Durant.

However, the key to this possession is Redick diagnosing the action and realizing that Jordan needs his help to seal off the paint. Before Durant even attacks, Redick is already standing under the hoop. The closer Durant gets to the paint, you see Redick helping all the way over to the block opposite his man.

Durant, knowing he doesn’t have a clear path to the rim, has to account for Jordan swatting him at the rim and decides to attempt a fade-away  jumper from nearly behind the glass.

Next: Doc Rivers says Blake Griffin will return 'very 'soon'

Great defense and effort in the fourth quarter from the Clippers and even better ball movement offensively.