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Why are the Clippers vulnerable? Defense (or coaching)

Apr 2, 2013, 7:55 PM EDT

Vinny Del Negro AP

Before the season started what was the mantra about the Clippers on this site (and most others)?

It’s all about the defense.

With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin (who has a more diverse game than many fans give him credit for), plus Jamal Crawford off the bench, the Clippers were going to score points. A lot of them. And they are fifth in the NBA at 107.1 points per 100 possessions. Between the Nuggets and the Spurs. Which is to say championship level.

The Clippers were always going to go only as far as their defense will carry them. Right now that doesn’t look very far — they are 7-8 in their last 15 stumbling toward the playoffs.

In one of the must read pieces of the day, Mike Prada broke the Clippers defense down like a point guard off the dribble at SBNation.

When they were winning, L.A. was hovering in the top five in defensive efficiency, but things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse in recent weeks. The Clippers have surrendered an average of 105.7 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break. Only sub-.500 Milwaukee, at 105.8/100 possessions, is worse among the 16 playoff teams. When you narrow the sample to March 1 and later, the Clippers fall behind Milwaukee on that list.

What has caused the Clippers’ tremendous defensive fall? A look at the tape reveals a club that has no coherent plan on how to defend any sort of play.

That last sentence is not followed up with picture of Vinny Del Negro, but it might as well be.

Prada goes on in detail, with images, to show how the Clippers try to vary their pick-and-roll coverages but don’t really execute any of them well. Rather than being really good at one way of handling the play and throwing in other things to mix it up occasionally, the Clips are mediocre at a lot of things.

Which comes back to the question: What is the Clippers defensive identity? Is it to blitz the ball handler, force turnovers and attack in transition? A more patient solid style like the Celtics or Bulls? We don’t really know, the Clippers are kind of a mishmash.

And in just over two weeks that lack of identity could cost them a lot.

  1. rickyspanish - Apr 2, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    I look forward to the Clippers getting worked by the Spurs or Thunder in the playoffs.

    • zacksdad - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:16 PM

      They would have to beat Denver or Memphis in the first round for that to happen. The way they are playing lately, first round exit.

  2. zacksdad - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Looks like their name will become Sob City or Flop City instead of Lob City.

  3. sunsation3413 - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Hopefully CP3 will help Vinny down the road and they bring in someone who can help them stay on the winning track. The Clips and OKC are the most entertaining teams in the league!

  4. limonadamas - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    Blake Griffin pretty much said as much about the VDN’s lack of a coherent defensive gameplan a few weeks ago. What a waste, given that there are guys on that roster like DeAndre Jordan who could be monster defenders with the correct scheme.

  5. camnellum12 - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Fire VDN and sign Jerry Sloan, it would be the best P&R in the league by far

    • zacksdad - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:11 PM

      I say they hire Phil Jackson and after he wins a Championship, it will really show how bad Jimmie Buss is. Phil would love to stick it to Jimmie.

      • camnellum12 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:03 AM

        I doubt the Clippers have the weapons for the Triangle though

      • kylos13 - Apr 3, 2013 at 11:19 AM

        Terrible idea! CP3 is the best point guard in the game, Phil Jackson runs the Triangle which takes the ball away from the PG. Why would they want to run an offense that hardly involves their best player? Jerry Sloan is the answer!

      • paleihe - Apr 3, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Kylos13: That same argument was used when the Lakers decided not to bring back Jackson cause they had Nash.

        Either way, Phil Jackson ain’t coaching the Clippers.

      • paleihe - Apr 3, 2013 at 4:04 PM

        But, you’re right, Sloan is the answer!

        I can only hope they get him!

  6. @itsChanMann - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    I’d like to see Heat/ClipShow in the finals…

  7. reasonablemindsays - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    I’ve been saying for years that Vinny Del Negro is the worst coach in the game of basketball today. His teams consistently perform below their talent level. The Clippers have the best player in the league at both the 1 and 4 positions. Plus, a ton of great role players.

    • savvybynature - Apr 3, 2013 at 4:49 PM

      I think you have the Clippers confused with the Spurs — you know, the team with the best pg in the league and the best PF of all time.

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