Clippers Kryptonite: Minnesota Timberwolves.
Watching the Los Angeles Clippers play is pure torture. With the talent they have on that roster, the fact that they are now 0-3 against the Timberwolves is incomprehensible. Additionally, the fact that Vinny Del Negro does not make adjustments from their embarrassing loss to Minnesota on February 28th has to set off some sort of alarm in GM Neil Olshey’s head. Rick Adelman, coach of the Wolves, has thrice out-coached his counterpart Del Negro with a team that has half the talent. Heading into the All-star break Chris Paul had mentioned that the Clippers had yet to scratch the surface of their potential.
”That’s when it gets serious, after the break,” Paul said. ”Definitely a lot of room for improvement. Obviously we haven’t peaked yet and we can keep getting better.”
However, all they have done is prove otherwise. It seems as though their best days are now behind them. With a coach that is in over his head and inexperienced big men (who cannot set a simple screen or box out), the Clippers are beginning to fade. Chauncey Billups shot a mere 36.4% in the 20 games he played prior to rupturing his achilles, however his veteran presence on the court and on the bench provided the young core (and Coach Del Negro) with guidance and and a steady hand. Nothing rattles him. No moment was to big for Mr. Big Shot. His absence is proving to be more and more telling of this team as they now fall to 7-7 since his injury.
Kevin Love went off two nights after posting 42 in a win against Portland, he out-duels Blake Griffin, with 39 points, 17 rebounds (7 offensive) and 5 three pointers. Despite this offensive outburst, the Clippers found themselves down 95-92 with 4.8 seconds remaining in the game. Off of a double screen, Chris Paul caught the inbounds pass and fired from downtown, only to be fouled by Derrick Williams with 2.8 seconds remaining. That’s what you want, right? Your star point guard at the charity stripe for three shots, with a chance to send it to overtime for the second consecutive night. Paul, who shoots 85% from the free throw line on the season, who had been a perfect 6-6 prior to those three, had recently become the ultimate closer. The first one hit the front of the rim and dropped in – Ralph Lawler, voice of the Clippers, almost had an on-air aneurism. Chris sinks the second with general ease. He steps into the third, confident as usual, and it clanks off the front rim, falling to Ricky Rubio, the pesky guard who rebounds like Rajon Rondo, and that was it.
With a day off tomorrow, they travel to New Jersey to take on a team without Brook Lopez who is nursing a sprained ankle and will miss three weeks. The Clippers need to build some confidence with this next game as they head to San Antonio to cap off the six-game road trip on Friday. You can bet Ryan Gomes won’t be inserted into the game this time around versus the Spurs. Everyone remembers “the inbounds pass gone wrong”.
Just a quick note: Caron Butler is 4-20 from beyond the arc in his last nine games. This shooting slump began on the heels of his best three-game stretch from distance this season, which saw him drain14-24, averaging 20 points per game over that period.