I believe back in high school when we had to take statewide exams in English each year that they always used the same sample essay question: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Discuss.
Has any team been better at collapsing in the fourth quarter than the Clips? Yeah, yeah, I know sometimes they like to collapse earlier, but that ain’t what I’m talkin’ ’bout here. Actually, as I was mentioning to my friend Greg last night, the Clips have advanced from last year. Last year they’d be behind by a bit at the half, but then would get blown out of the water by the third quarter. This year, for the most part, we’ve managed to make it to the fourth quarter before getting blown away.
Part of the problem is that often when we’ve looked best this year it’s ‘cuz we’ve been going through Kaman, but the Caveman has shown that even when he’s playing well, he gets nervous & chokes in the fourth. ‘Course last night Kaman was bad the whole game. He kinda perfectly personifies the Clippers — some nights he looks like he might be the best center in the west, but other nights he plays so awfully that I long for Mark Madsen.
Okay, it hurts that Eric Gordon was back out again since he was one of the main driving forces behind the comeback against the Griz, but we can’t use injuries as an excuse when we lose to a team that was completely put together to play off of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. If they can win missing two guys who’re constant fixtures on the All-Star team, how can Dunleavy complain that he’s missing a rookie and a second year player — no matter how good they are. Honestly, one of the reasons the Rockets are still darn good is precisely because of their coach. Rick Adelman has shown flexibility, plus an ability to see what works best for his particular crew of players rather than simply coming in with his own plan.
Before Adelman came to the Rockets, they had become a defensive juggernaut under previous coach, Jeff Van Gundy (one of my faves ever — and yes, partly it’s ‘cuz he coached the Knicks and partly ‘cuz I find him dang funny as a color commentator). Adelman had previously coached the Chris Webber Sacramento Kings who were known as offensive juggernauts and defensively as… um, did I mention how fluidly they passed on offense? Now did he come in to Houston & try to turn the Rockets into Sacramento 2.0? No. He saw that with players like Shane Battier and Yao to patrol the middle, that this was a team that should hang it’s hat on D. And with two players (Yao & Tmac) who could create their own shot at any moment, the Rockets didn’t need to be a passing/Princeton offense type of team. He went with what worked for that team. When Yao went down two years ago, everyone figured the Rockets were done-fer and would fall out of playoff contention. Adelman tweaked the offense, made the defense more about swarming than tunneling to a big man, and the Rockets won an astounding 19 straight.
This year, the team knew heading into the season that it would have neither Yao, TMac or last season’s Ron Artest. Yao and Artest are both best in a half-court offense where they can post up in the paint. They kept the pace slow so that Yao would be heavily involved on both sides of the court. This year Adelman realized they didn’t have the offensive talent to grind out games in the half-court: they had to run. So the Rockets, who the last few years have never been known as a high-scoring team, have scored over 100 points in almost all of their games. They push the ball, often on just a one- or two-man break (not that dissimilar to what Eric Gordon & Al Thornton did in the fourth quarter against the Griz), and they create easier, higher percentage shots.
While Dunleavy has shown a willingness to adjust his lineups (which I’ve given him credit for — and still do), he hasn’t shown the ability to adjust how the team plays. His system doesn’t seem to be working for the team. They need to run more, post Baron up more, create some opportunities for Steve Novak (so that when he’s in he’s on the open side and double teams will need to either leave him wide open or not be able to double when Baron drives or Kaman posts). Defensively, the rotations seem awful and besides Camby no one can rebound (last night the good news was that Camby had a whopping 19 rebounds. The bad news was that all the other Clippers combined didn’t get as many rebounds as him). I heard I believe a commentator say at some point that the Clippers are too clustered together to get defensive rebounds and that they need to be more spread out. I haven’t had a chance to notice if I find this to be true, but if so, isn’t this something Dunleavy can change?
Donald T. Sterling has come out and said that he won’t evaluate Dunleavy until he has his full healthy team back. Unfortunately it was recently announced that Blake Griffin, who was supposed to return around now, will need a few additional weeks and won’t be ready until January 1st at the earliest. That means theoretically the coaching situation won’t change for at least another month and a half. Can the Clipper fans wait that long? Considering that last night, with five minutes still left on the game clock, the fans chanted, “Fi-re Dun-leavy,” I’d say that’s a resounding no.