Expectations are higher than ever for the LA Clippers this season, and the sense of urgency has never been greater for Chris Paul and Co. But relax.
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Nov 29, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers coaches against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
After getting off to a fast start this season with a 14-2 record, the LA Clippers have fallen into a funk by going 2-5 in their last seven games. Following their latest 115-98 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, the NBA world is asking what on earth happened.
The core of guys have been together for three year prior to this season with J.J. Redick signing on in the summer of 2013.
The overreaction from the sports world has been large, but maybe this is what the Clippers needed. The game was also played in December, not in April or May when more is on the line. The season is about a quarter of the way completed. We are not in the playoffs, even though this could be a playoff matchup we see come April.
The Clippers came out and laid a goose egg against the Golden State Warriors, but that does not mean the season is over and, no, the Clippers don’t need to look into trading Blake Griffin (5-of-20 shooting with seven turnovers was ugly, but not that ugly). They just need to play the way they were playing earlier in the season.
In the words of Aaron Rodgers, “relax, we are going to be ok.” When Aaron said this his team was ranked 28th in offense and 1-2 in the 2014-2015 season. Just like the Green Bay Packers of the NFL, the Clippers are still early in the season where they can make changes and mental adjustments needed to compete with the Warriors. The Packers proceeded to go 12-4 and make it to the Conference Finals.
The loss to Golden State is not the end of the world. And while the Warriors unsurprisingly have wins over some impressive opponents, so do the Clippers.
Both teams know each other well and the Warriors were able to stop ball movement, turning the LA Clippers’ offense into a lot of dribbling, isolation plays, and low percentage shots. Not to mention hurried passes and unsettled post play from Griffin.
The Clippers were not able to get out on fast breaks because they couldn’t get steals, and the early turnovers just provided that many extra possessions.
Blake’s uncharacteristic turnovers into occupied passing lanes hurt a lot too, yet it also wasn’t the only reason why the Clippers lost. Blake averages 2.7 turnovers a game, and seven was easily a new season-high. It killed momentum, and once the Warriors play faster and go on a run to get ahead, it’s hard for anyone to come back.
Next, a look at other elements of the Clippers’ attack that won’t always be such a weakness.
Dec 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LA Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) controls the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) in the third quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Redick couldn’t get open and Luc was a non-factor offensively
J.J. Redick couldn’t get an open look anywhere, because of the Warriors’ switching and the length across their roster. Which, seeing as Redick needs someone to help him create his best shots, was always going to hurt the Clippers. Even more so when the interior plan with Griffin wasn’t working out.
Redick had a look at a three and with Klay Thompson‘s closeout he passed the ball instead of taking the block. The Clippers are going to have to do more for Redick, because without his first quarter scoring and the spacing the Clippers will struggle against the Warriors next time.
He played great defense on anyone they needed him to and he always keeps moving to cover guys off the ball, but he missed the three shots he took (the number of attempts is more important than the misses). The Clippers need him to score as well as defend, and at times he’s been able to. They just need more of it, especially against the Warriors.
Beyond the player’s performance, the mentality with the refs needs to change.
Dec 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) reacts to a foul call in the second half of the game against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center. Pacers won 111-102. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Leave the refs alone
Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reported from an upset Marreese Speights, “First we need to start really just leaving the refs alone.” The Clippers are a team that yaps a lot to the referees and it would be in their best interest to stop. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Doc Rivers all do it and it’s understandable to be upset. But yelling at the refs is not going to change that play or even the next play. More so than anything else, it’s detrimental to the team’s already bad reputation.
Talk to the referees in a respectful manner about your concern and then go onto the next play. Earlier in the season, it looked like the Clippers had grown out of yelling at officials, as Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com reported on November 10th, “Paul has noticed the Clippers doing a better job of moving on to the next play this year.”
When the Clippers were winning, the arguing was kept to a minimum, but when the losses add up, so does the frustration.
So, what should be done differently going forward?
Dec 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) controls the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) in the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
What to do?
The LA Clippers don’t have to be “Lob City”, but they do need to run and get out in transition. We know how deadly they can be when they get out and run, with Redick trailing from three and Griffin and Jordan working as the most explosive big men tandem. It’s Paul’s clinical passing that can often slow this pace. But running more often could help the Clippers keep up more offensive intensity.
As for Griffin, he won’t always make the frantic passes he did against the Warriors. He knows that he made mistakes and his lone highlight going for a put-back over Draymond Green was what we were expecting to see throughout the game.
The Clippers looked to jumbled for the game. They need to find way to get Redick some open shots next time and some breathing space to operate. Paul needs to be more aggressive as well when the Warriors try and take Blake’s passing away. There were clear problems. We just can’t act like they happen all the time, and the Clippers outscoring the Warriors over the final three quarters 79-78 can’t be ignored either.
So, while it may have been the case against the Warriors, are the lights really too bright for the Clippers this season?
Dec 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The LA Clippers stand for the National Anthem prior to the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Lights too bright?
The lights were not too bright for Griffin or the rest of the Clippers in the Warriors game, because we have seen the Clippers play elite basketball. In the first round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs in 2014-2015, the Clippers played in the brightest lights to win a hard fought seven-game series as underdogs.
In the end, the Warriors just executed better than the Clippers and got the kind of dominant start that proved to be insurmountable. After the initial feeling out phase in the first six minutes of the game the Warriors took off. The Clippers were left playing catch up all night long. The bench helped in the second quarter to get it to seven, but once the Warriors got the lead to 27 the game was over.
The Clippers’ starters looked deflated after the first quarter. When playing against top teams they cannot play like that. They need to play perfectly (at both ends of the floor) against Golden State and exploit the Griffin-Jordan tandem in the paint. Griffin needs to be the best player on the court for them to win. He has shown flashes he can play at that level.
It was built up as a must win, but the Clippers fell flat once the game started. This was not Game 7 in the Conference Finals, though. It’s the first game of their season series.
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It was just one game. They were knocked in the mouth and never recovered. Now, it’s time to get up and show the world you are what we think you are: a championship caliber team. Play loose and have fun. So everyone at this moment can just relax about the LA Clippers. And Chris Paul bouncing back for the first 20-20 game with zero assists in NBA history was a pretty good way to start.