Over the weekend the Clippers won 2 games, getting their record up to a respectable 3-4. They whupped Golden State first, but then had a tough game against Memphis. The Grizzlies lead for most the first three quarters, but the Clippers hung tight, showing they’re a different squad than last year by pulling out the game in the end. However the odd thing was that the Clippers looked pretty darn good and yet the game was so tough. Kaman shot 50% from the field for 26 points. Baron Davis, who’s not known for shooting well and had been shooting in the 30%s, shot over 50%. Yes, Camby only hit 2 of 6, but with that few shots it shouldn’t make a big difference. Eric Gordon also wasn’t great, shooting only 41.7%. However, off the bench Telfair shot 50%, Thornton was 3-for-4, and the Rhino was a phenomenal 8-of-11 (including his first ever three-pointer of his career!). For the Grizz, of the starters only Rudy Gay shot better than 50% (11-of-20). Their two bench players who shot better than 50% only took 5 and 6 shots, so that wasn’t too big an effect.
How was this such a tight game? Well, with the title of this post it’s pretty clear where I’m going: Rasual Butler. He took the most shot attempts on the entire team (in fact out of both teams, Gay was the only one who took more shots), and hit on only a little better than 33%. Everyone declared him the hero because he finally hit a couple of big ones at the end, but the truth is if he hadn’t stunk up the place in the first place we wouldn’t have needed last-minute heroics.
Last night we went up against the Hornets. Second verse, same as the first. Despite Camby, Thornton & Kaman all playing more minutes than Rasual, it was the Butler who took the most shots. New Orleans knew Kaman had been destroying teams so their defensive plan was to surround him in the paint whenever he got it and force the Clips to beat them from the outside. The plan worked to perfection thanks to Rasual, who shot every ball that came to him as though he was Ray Allen and couldn’t miss. He shot 35%.
Okay, he had an off-night you might say. Not really by that much. He’s a career 40% shooter. He’s played 8 seasons, and out of the 7 where he played more than 15 min/game, he only shot better than 40% twice. Unfortunately, last year was the best of those and he shot 43%. People say how he was a big cog for the Hornets, but the truth is the Hornets took a step back last year once he became a full-time starter. He played all 82 games, started 74 of ‘em and played nearly 32 minutes. However the previous year? The year that the Hornets almost had the best record in the west & looked like they were gonna become serious contenders for years? Butler played 51 games, only started 8, and averaged a mere 17.5 minutes.
To come full circle and get back to my awful punning title: what the Clippers need from him is indeed that of what one hopes to get from a butler. Someone unobtrusive who’s barely noticeable, but he does all the little things, and he’s there when you need him. We don’t need someone trying to assert himself, thinking he’s more than he is. He’s a friggin’ Butler. Know your place.
Now of course the loss isn’t all on Butler. When you lose by 28 points it can’t all be one guy’s fault. Obviously it hurt that Eric Gordon was out since he’s our most consistent outside shooter and a good defender. Kaman, even though he still shot 50%, had trouble when he got swarmed and turned it over several times. Hopefully as the season progresses Kaman will get used to being doubled (or tripled) and will get better at passing the ball out to create nice shots for his teammates. He actually had one nice pass toward the end where rather than just pass to the guy nearest him, he saw the wide open guy slightly on the other side at the top of the key. Oh, and Baron Davis should’ve posted up Chris Paul all night. B-Diddy knows how to pass outta double-teams.
Lastly, I think Dunleavy needs to start playing Steve Novak when teams pack the paint. He did actually play Novak 14 minutes last night, but it was when the game was out of hand already and Baron and Kaman had been taken out. The thing is Novak’s played so little that his teammates don’t know how to use him. Granted it was extended garbage time, but like Telfair would drive and Novak’s man would pinch in towards him. The defender wouldn’t necessarily fully double Telfair, but he was far enough off Novak that a three would’ve been automatic. But besides practice, Telfair hasn’t seen what Novak can do in a game. Novak can keep a defense honest. With Gordon out, the Hornets were happy with Baron & Rasual shooting the long ball. Novak obviously isn’t a great defender, but he could’ve kept up with Peja at this point in Peja’s career. Novak can be a very effective weapon for this team. Some games he shouldn’t play at all ‘cuz he’ll struggle to cover any of the guys out there. But most teams, between their 5 starters and all the guys coming off the bench, they have at least one weak offensive player who Novak can cover.
Okay, so we’re not at .500. 3-5 ain’t bad considering we started 0-4. Let’s hope Eric Gordon can go on Wednesday, ‘cuz Oklahoma City’s coming to town and they’re looking really good this year.