If you want to find a game where the Los Angeles Clippers play the exact type of basketball that critics knock them for, the loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder is the perfect representation.
Granted the Clips were on the second night of a back-to-back, Los Angeles displayed a perfect depiction of “how not to win games in the playoffs”. The offense was often stagnant, relying on a bevy of jump shots to dig themselves out of a scoring deficit. And the defense couldn’t “stop a nosebleed”.
No seriously. The Clippers couldn’t get a stop if they tried and the defense progressively got worst as the game went on. Look at these splits by the quarter:
Outside of the second quarter the Thunder got everything they wanted without much oblige from the opposition. This isn’t the recipe for success now nor is it for one for later. Re-watching the game and the same traits that I’ve come across that are detrimental to this defense were once against evident.
Slow rotations. Lack of communication. Allowing guards to get to the middle of the floor. It’s unclear whether this is due to the lack of chemistry (Matt Barnes was out), the lack of defensive instincts and awareness of the group or just several factors all combined. Doc Rivers has some work ahead of him.
In the third quarter during OKC’s possession, the ball is swung on the perimeter and Jeremy Lamb hits Serge Ibaka with a pass on the baseline.
For some reason Blake Griffin is nowhere near Ibaka. Even seeing that Serge is receiving a pass, Griffin puts forth no effort to contest a shot from a 48 percent mid-range jumper. As basketball coaches far and wide will tell you, a key to being a good defensive player is knowing your opponents tendencies. Blake does a poor job here.
On a hand-off between Steven Adams and Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Jordan fails to cut off the paint.
Chris Paul fell asleep, expecting Jackson catch the ball and use Adams as a screen. Mistakes like this are often made. With Reggie cutting it now up to the basket the back line of the defense, the center in this scenario, has to force Jackson outside. Instead Jordan runs alongside Jackson, giving up an easy basket. Defensive stalwarts such as Tyson Chandler or Roy Hibbert don’t make this mistake. They now their man, in this case Adams, is a non-threat at the top of the key an sag back to evenly play the paint. Jordan has to recognize.
This time reserve center Ryan Hollins is at fault.
Coming up from the corner, Lamb gets a down-screen from Adams allowing him to get an open jumper at the wing. Hollins’ job is to hedge up as Lamb comes off the screen, buying time for Jared Dudley to recover from Adams screen. This takes communication and quick movement. Too slow a hedge and Adams gets an easy dunk. But the perfect hedge forces Lamb into either a contested mid-range jumper or makes another move. The result of this play is an easy jumper for Lamb.
On this play the Clippers allow the most embarrassing play we’ll see this year happen: they let Derek Fisher get to the rim uncontested. And it all started with porous defense from Jamal Crawford.
That rule is why teams ice pick and rolls. They’d rather force the ball-handler baseline than have him in the middle of the floor. Once a player gets there, the odds of the defense breaking down increase ten-fold. And somehow Crawford allows Fisher to do just that. Instead of kicking out to a shooter, Fisher gets all the way to the rim thanks to DeAndre Jordan’s non-existent presence at the rim.
All surrounding defenders do the right thing. You don’t relinquish an easy jumper to Kevin Durant. You don’t let Jeremy Lamb get an easy catch-and-shoot three. Letting Fisher get to the rim is the proper move. The problem is DeAndre Jordan doesn’t finish out what could have ended in a stop. These are the plays that make critics, fans and pundits not trust Jordan being the last line of defense on this Clippers team. Too many frequent lapses on that end.
Above is the 1-4 pick-and-roll with Russell Westbrook and Durant, a set they used several times down the stretch. When Durant slips on the screen, Russell hits him with a pass and the defense rotates accordingly.
Keeping the ball out of Durant’s hand is the best plan for the Clippers. With the double-team on him, Durant hits Derek Fisher who then swings it to Reggie Jackson, forcing more defensive rotations.
Redick does the proper thing, forcing Jackson baseline and Blake rotates perfectly as he attempts to trap Jackson behind the rim. Jackson drops off the pass to Ibaka for an easy layup, but that’s only possible because, instead of rotating like the rest of his teammates, Dudley is caught ball-watching and gets to the spot too late.
These type of mistakes happen all too often. Doc Rivers’ defensive scheme is becoming a thing, but too many players running it are poor defenders.
Hopefully for the Clippers, time can heal that situation.