Mar 11, 2013, 1:06 AM EST
LOS ANGELES — Since the start of the season there have been two questions that seem to define just how far the Clippers can go:
1) How good is DeAndre Jordan playing at the five?
2) How good is the Clippers defense?
The answer to both of those questions of late was “not good.” Which is why a lot of people have crossed the Clippers off their contenders list. Teams like the Thunder, Spurs and Nuggets have made them look bad recently.
Vinny Del Negro admitted his team was not playing well heading into Sunday night, then said the usual coach speak about it being all effort and focus. What he really needed was a nice easy blowout win with some good defense.
Enter the Pistons.
The Clippers played good defense early, the hapless Pistons couldn’t capitalize when they did find holes and the Clippers got their rout, 129-97.
It’s a start. Now they need to carry it over to a bigger test against Memphis Wednesday.
“I thought defensively we were really tuned in, trying to take away some things, our energy level was up,” Clipper veteran Chauncey Billups told PBT after the game. “It wasn’t about who we was playing, it was about kind of us and our mindset and what we was going to do.”
The Clippers can defend. On the season, the Clippers have given up 100.2 points per 100 possessions, eighth best in the NBA. They have defended the pick-and-roll well (both the ball handler and roller, top five in the NBA according to Synergy Sports) by mixing up coverages.
But in the last five games that is up to 107.3 points per 100 possessions, 27th in the NBA during that stretch. In those games teams are shooting 47.8 percent overall and a very good 39.5 percent from three. Go back 10 games and the Clippers are giving up 104.3 points per 100 (20th in the league).
“We have to start playing better, I don’t think we’ve played well in a while…” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said before the game. “I think we just got to get our intensity up. Deny one pass away, be more physical, execute the plan better, talking, communicating, sprinting back in transition, loading up on the ball, running three point shooters off the line, boxing out, just all the fundamentals.”
Oh, well, if that’s all that’s wrong….
The Clippers did that in the first quarter. The Pistons pregame goal was to draw the Clipper big men out in the pick-and-roll, to get them in space, but the Clippers dropped off a lot. Why? Well, they were playing the Pistons. This was not a team that could make the Clippers pay for that strategy. Even when it worked and Jose Calderon made a nice pass to Greg Monroe, who had rolled inside to good position, he couldn’t finish when contested (he started the game 1-of-5). And the Clippers didn’t fear Jason Maxiell. Rightly.
As the game wore on the Clippers were more aggressive against the Pistons guards, trapping and challenging. And everybody not named Calderon struggled against that challenge.
It’s hard to take any defensive stats from this game after the first half too seriously because it became such a blowout. The Pistons had no answer for the Clippers on the offensive end. The Pistons defense could not keep stop Blake Griffin early — he hit on post moves, dunks in transition, cuts through the lane and, of course, a transition alley-oop. Throw in some vintage Chris Paul cross over and step backs and the Clippers were up 12 in the first quarter. Griffin finished with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
DeAndre Jordan was more active as well. Plus, he had a monster, monster dunk. The Pistons just had now answers.
To a man the Clippers all talked about defensive intensity and focus, to getting back to the kind of defense they were playing when they won 17 in a row. The Clippers are the current three seed in the West however both the Nuggets and Grizzlies are playing great ball and either of those teams — or sides like the Warriors or Rockets or Lakers — could expose the defense if the Clippers are not focused and not building good habits heading to the playoffs.
If not, the Clippers playoff stay could be shockingly short. There is no margin for error in a deep West.
Dec 5, 2013, 8:51 PM EST
Dwyane Wade missed the Heat shootaround on Thursday, he was back at the hotel with what the team called “flu like symptoms.” That will now keep him out of the Heat’s game Thursday night against the Bulls, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Wade has missed several games this season to rest his knees,…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:24 PM EST
Michael Carter-Williams is becoming must-see NBA TV — 17.7 points a game plus 7.3 assists a game playing at the fastest pace in the league. And don’t forget the 3.1 steals a game. But this weekend the early leader in the Rookie of the Year race will be sitting out with a sore knee. He…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:52 PM EST
Nelson Mandela, the iconic former president of South Africa who helped lead his nation out of the apartheid era to one of more equality, has passed away at the age of 95. The loss is humanity’s, but the world is better off for his full and purposeful life. NBA Commissioner Stern issued this statement on…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:19 PM EST
We know Kobe Bryant will not play Friday against Sacramento — he said as much and he’s not even traveling with the team to beautiful central California. So what about Sunday in Staples Center against the Raptors? Maybe. That’s as good as it’s going to get right now. Kobe spoke with reporters after his third…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:37 PM EST
The Boston Celtics may be on top of the Atlantic Division — at 8-12, but still on top of it — that doesn’t mean Rajon Rondo is rushing back to the court following ACL surgery. In his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub Ainge talked about weeks not days,…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:12 PM EST
The Clippers lost to the Hawks because of their defense on Wednesday night — the Hawks shot 51 percent as a team overall, hit 12-of-23 from three, were able to get more than a third of their shots inside 8 feet and shot 64.3 percent on them. The Clippers starting five had a horrible defensive…
Dec 5, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
An NBA fan was handed this at an NBA game Wednesday (and his friend posted the photo on Reddit, where I saw it). It’s a “red card” warning for what is deemed abusive language or behavior to someone — a player, a coach, the referees or another fan. The warning is clear: keep it up…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
The Houston Rockets’ offense has been one of the best in the NBA this season. James Harden on the outside, Dwight Howard inside and a good combination of role players has worked well. But not Wednesday night. Against the Suns the Rockets shot 35.2 percent as a team and 29 percent from three. It was…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:33 PM EST
The Knicks and Nets as engaged in a thrilling competition: Which team is the biggest laughingstocks in the NBA? Both can lay claim. They have oversized payrolls, cartoonish owners, coaches on the hot seat and underwhelming stars. The Knicks have seen Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin feud, and the Nets have matched with Jason…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:22 PM EST
“I’m not done.” That quote sums up what Derrick Rose said in about 25 different ways during his first press conference since tearing his meniscus, an injury that required surgery and is expected to sideline him for the season. The press conference was streamed on CSNChicago.com. Rose was asked what he would say to those…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:43 PM EST
Anybody who tells you they know what Carmelo Anthony is going to do this summer is selling you something. And it’s something that doesn’t smell good. But we are going to be inundated with this stuff between now and July 1, when Anthony likely will become a free agent. The latest was ESPN personality Stephen…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert posted this before the Pacers game Wednesday night. I’d say he should get that looked at, but my guess is the Pacers’ trainer Josh Corbeil is not blind. If this were anything serious Hibbert wouldn’t be out there. And Hibbert said it didn’t hurt — he shot 6-of-9 from the…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:09 AM EST
Kevin Durant did it in a movie nobody really saw (Thunderstruck). Michael Jordan did it with cartoon characters (Space Jam). Shaquille O’Neal did it… poorly (Kazam). Now LeBron James is about to be the latest NBA superstar to head to the big screen and star in a movie. Well, we don’t know how big his…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:36 AM EST
With the Nets off to a 5-13 start in the East, there is a lot of finger pointing going on. Losing does that. That includes fingers at first-year coach Jason Kidd, who recently demoted lead assistant Lawrence Frank to be basically the highest paid video coordinator in the NBA. The Nets offense has been isolation…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:28 AM EST
Nike held an event at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles to unveil its latest signature shoe for Kobe Bryant, the Kobe 9 Elite. And it’s a huge change from what we’ve seen out of Bryant’s line over the past several seasons. From the official release: “Designed with Kobe’s tech insights and…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:45 AM EST
Mark Cuban tried to just spend his way to an NBA title. It didn’t work. It rarely does in the NBA — you need an elite player or two, but you can’t just go Steinbrenner and try to buy all the talent in the world to go around them. You need the right kind of…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
I have this odd vision for the future of the NBA, and in it everyone looks like Kirk Hinrich. Well, everyone doesn’t actually look like Kirk Hinrich, but all the players are wearing goggles nonetheless. That’s not just because they look cool and I think Hinrich is the undisputed king of accessorizing, and it’s not…
Dec 5, 2013, 3:09 AM EST
I said it in the PBT nightly grades post and I’ll say it here — I think LaMarcus Aldridge is the best four in the league right now. I’d take him over Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan or anyone else you can throw out there right now (excluding LeBron James, who plays kind of…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:20 AM EST
Our nightly look around the NBA, or what you missed while figuring out how to use lasers to mark the first down line in the a football game…. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. For my money right now he is the best power forward in the game. I’d rather have him over Kevin Love or…
Dec 4, 2013, 10:53 PM EST
Kobe Bryant is back to practicing at full speed this week, and while many hoped that would mean a return to real game action as soon as Friday on the road against the Kings in Sacramento, Bryant himself said on Wednesday that wouldn’t be the case. Speaking to many reporters one-on-one at the unveiling of…
- David Stern issues statement on passing of Nelson Mandela, players take to twitter 4
- Kobe Bryant sounds close to return, will not offer specific date 3
- Knicks and Nets might not remain so mockable for long, so enjoy it while you can 13
- Derrick Rose to those doubting his return: “You can be a fool if you want to” 12
- You knew this was coming: Carmelo Anthony denies report he has decided to leave Knicks 26
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (64)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (42)
- Michael Beasley finding a role, groove in Miami (41)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (38)
- Report: Kenyon Martin, Metta World Peace had “heated” argument (35)