LA Clippers: How LA can dominate the paint without Serge Ibaka

Ivica Zubac, LA Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Ivica Zubac, LA Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Clippers dominated the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, and now they have them again on Friday.

Part of the reason they were so successful against the Blazers was because they forced 30 turnovers against a Blazers team that entered the game tied for the second-least amount of turnovers given up per game.

Something interesting that happened in the game was that despite the Clippers being shorthanded when it comes to big men right now, the team actually forced many of those turnovers in the paint. Whether they were directly in the paint, or through passes trying to advance the ball to the paint, the Clippers were all over it, even with Serge Ibaka out due to injury.

The LA Clippers proved that they can control the paint against the Trail Blazers without Serge Ibaka.

The LA Clippers were without Serge Ibaka, but they didn’t let it stop them. In response to being without the Clips’ starting center, the Clips flooded the paint with multiple bodies. All six of Jusuf Nurkic’s turnovers were either in the paint or forced while he was trying to pass the ball in the paint. It was already an accomplishment to force a team-high six turnovers from Nurkic while only having two centers of our own playing, and the Clips impressed in the way that they did it.

It was a similar story to how they forced three of Damian Lillard’s four turnovers. Those three were also either in the paint or with Lillard trying to dish it to the paint.

For many of these nine turnovers, it wasn’t just Ivica Zubac or Isaiah Hartenstein out-muscling someone in the paint. It was due to multiple Clippers constantly being around the paint, clogging the lane.

For the first two of Nurkic’s turnovers, Paul George helped down low along with Zubac manning the paint. For the third, the Blazers forced Zu out of the paint to guard Nurkic up top, but all three of Nicolas Batum, Paul George, and even Luke Kennard had their eyes down low to force the turnover.

It wasn’t even just that the Clippers figured out how to contain the bigger bodies, but they prevented scoring off of cuts to the basket. This same thing happened on a later turnover on a pass from Nurkic, just by having Batum and George in there that time.

There was even another possession where Nurkic caught the basketball in stride, but since George and Reggie Jackson crashed over to the paint, he ended up losing the handle as they put themselves in position to stop the drive.

The Clippers are a quick team, and they may not have a ton of size, but they do have a ton of length. Multiple Lillard turnovers were due to him trying to facilitate the ball into the paint, but the Clips were able to use their length and quickness to move into the paint and create traffic for Dame. One of them was on a pick-and-roll attempt, and another was on what should have been a nice job creating space for Lillard off the dribble. He tried to feed a bigger player in Nurkic who slid down low, but when Zubac moved in to help on Lillard, PG moved back to make sure he got in the way of the passing lane to Nurkic.

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We looked like we had really strong chemistry and defensive movement and help. Even without Ibaka, we proved that we don’t always need the biggest bodies to find ways to lock down the paint. Forcing turnovers against a great point guard in Dame DOLLA isn’t easy, and the Clippers found ways to force turnovers on him as well as their top big man. Don’t be surprised if we see more of the same on Friday.