If you want exhibit A on why the Los Angeles Clippers are second tier under the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, watch the Atlanta Hawks decimate them for four quarters straight.
The Clippers couldn’t stop a nosebleed. With four minutes left in the game, the Clippers were down eight points, coming off of a layup from Blake Griffin. The Atlanta Hawks went on to score 11 points on 4-7 shooting the rest of the way. And that sums up Los Angeles’ night.
It started with the bigs. As they do against the Memphis Grizzlies, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin couldn’t contain the big-man duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. The two Hawks combined for 46 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks. While the surrounding cast for Atlanta has done well throughout the season, these two are why I figured the Hawks would remain a playoff team in the East (this was before I knew it’d be a dumpster fire). Straight up Blake couldn’t contain Millsap and between bad rotations and poor defensive tendencies, HorSap (as Hawks Twitter calls the duo) did what they wanted, whenever they wanted and how they wanted.
While Blake was ‘solid’, tonight was reminiscent of the VDN days for DeAndre Jordan. For the first time this season, Ryan Hollins brought more to the Clips defensively than DJ. Rare moment this season, and when that happens it spells disaster for LA.
And to perfectly balance out the inside presence, the Clippers couldn’t keep Kyle Korver from a) continuing his streak of consecutive three-pointers made (currently tied for most in a row at 89 with Dana Barros) and b) carving up their perimeter defense. Korver finished the game with 23 points (6-9 3PA), two short of the Hawks game-high. While you won’t find many people more appreciative of Kyle’s game as a player, when a defense allows him to accumulate that many points, things are bad.
Even Shelvin Mack joined in on the barrage, contributing to 12 points and 5 assists off the bench, outplaying Jeff Teague.
On the offensive end of things, without J.J. Redick of course, LA looks more Vinny Del Negro last year than it does Doc Rivers this season. There’s little to no movement, the need for Chris Paul to do everything (again) and enough isolation basketball from Jamal Crawford that you’d think he was channeling his inner J.R. Smith. Scoring 97 points is never an indication of bad offense, but outside of the Clippers top-3 scorers sans J.J., the Clippers couldn’t find offense. Darren Collison did chip in 13 points, but outside of him, no one else showed up.
Doc Rivers will have to find a way to improve the all-around play as they embark on this East coast road trip. The level of competition the rest of the way through isn’t glamorous (CLE, PHI, BOS, BK, WAS are all .500 or less), so you’d expect a dominate outcome to be possible. Those are the perks of being mentioned as a contender. Those five teams will play with a pep in their step, disallowing the Clippers to put forth lackadaisical efforts.
But the show doesn’t stop now and there’s no time to sulk over a loss. Tomorrow the Clippers take on a Memphis Grizzlies team sans-Marc Gasol, and possibly Zach Randolph. This’ll be a good matchup to see if this unit can bounce back from a loss.