Posted on: January 12, 2012 2:34 am
By Matt Moore
Los Angeles 95 Miami 89
Theory: The Clippers needed some help, but found their defensive identity against the Heat to get their biggest win of the season.
Proof: Moving past the prolific failure of the Miami Heat, particularly at the free throw line, the Clippers did win a fairly significant ball game Wednesday in their own right, an ugly affair against a tough defensive team, and they did it with defense.
For weeks the Clippers have been chided for porous defense. But Wednesday they took the most athletic team and attacked them at the rim. They turned the Heat over, they challenged jumpers, they helped and communicated, and DeAndre Jordan blocked everything in sight.
The Heat entered Wednesday night with a 107 offensive efficiency mark (points per 100 possessions). The Clippers held them to just an 89.9 mark. That's worse than the Wizards' mark for the season. L.A. brought a lot of help, but it was also lead by the same players who they were criticized for acquiring. Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler did tandem work on LeBron ames and Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul was his usual ball-hawk self.
Then there was DeAndre Jordan.
That's why you overpay for a young center with his abilities. Eleven rebounds, six blocks (!) and a monstrous slam to finish the game and shut the door on the Heat. Jordan was everywhere, swallowing up shots and spitting them back out. Jordan was a monster and a huge reason why the Clippers could help and recover as much as they needed to against the Heat's athleticism.
The Clippers are still a work in progress. But there were enough positive signs to show that this team is not as far off as has been suggested recently. There are still things to improve on, though.
Blake Griffin is still learning to adapt to the new pressure and physicality defenses are now applying. Griffin finished with 20 and 12, but needed 23 shots to get to those 20 points. He was frustrated by the Heat's combined attacks and shook by their toughness inside on his drives. Too often he settled.
The bench is still very weak, and in need of a consistent scorer outside of Mo Williams.
But Chris Paul ties it together.
Maybe the defense won't play like this consistently enough to even warrant home court in the first round. But the pieces are there, and when they come together for the Clippers, with Paul drawing the strings and Jordan putting a big metal box over it, the Clippers have something as special as what they were hyped to be. It was a mentally exhausting, grinding battle Wednesday night, and at the end, the Clippers walked out with the signature win of their season so far.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:59 am
Edited on: January 12, 2012 2:04 am
By Matt Moore
Los Angeles 95 Miami 89
Theory: LeBron James cost the Heat a winnable game on the road against a playoff team by missing free throws.
Proof: Eventually you reach a point where these things cross the line of believablility. One missed clutch free throw by an 80 percent free throw shooter, one of the best basketball players on the planet, OK. Sure. Weird, but it happens.
But the sheer volume of missed free throws from LeBron James against the Clippers on Wednesday is purely staggering.
And more so, James was clearly, visibly shook by the misses. He didn't settle for long jumpers, though he did brick a face-up J with Billups defending him in the fourth. He did what everyone asks. He posted, he drove, he got to the rim, and he drew the foul.
And he bricked. Over and over and over again.
It was comical. It was absurd. Some people will say they aren't surprised, that James has already shown himself to be that kind of player. But there's a reason so many people react the way they do. There's a reason James is regarded in such lofty compliments. He really is that good... provided it's not a crucial game since the Eastern Conference Finals ended last June.
The Heat missed 14 free throws against the Clippers. Hit half of those misses, they win the game. Any better than that and it's a walk. The game never goes to OT. The Heat absolutely melted down on multiple levels. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were equally as terrible in the fourth quarter and overtime as James. But it was James who had the opportunity, yet again, to step up and lead, to end it, to be the player that gets it done.
And again, he failed. Shrunk. Choked. Whatever cliche you want to rip out there. He finished 9-17 from the line. Eight missed chances, any pair of which in regulation would have ended it. Torching LeBron for his late game failures has become more boring and drawn out than players complaining about calls (which there was also a lot of in this game, and rightfully so). And yet it's based in reality. No one remembers him crushing the Celtics down the stretch in a dominant series. No one remembers him erasing the MVP Derrick Rose. And rightfully so. These performances aren't just questionable or soft. They're bad. He's played badly.
And Wednesday night, those failures cost the Heat a game they should have won.
It's not even funny at this point, but that's hard to tell over the sound of the world's laughter.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 1:45 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 2:05 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The most repeated line of this lockout-shortened season is certainly this: “The schedule doesn’t do anyone any favors.” On Tuesday, those words finally became completely accurate.
Through Monday, it was true for 29 out of the 30 NBA teams. The Los Angeles Clippers, though, received plenty of favors from the season’s first two weeks, playing just six games in the first 16 days. Entering Tuesday night’s game at the Rose Garden against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Clippers were the only team that hadn’t played at least eight games this season. Half of those Clippers’ opponents– the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks – are likely lottery teams.
The Clippers had played just one game every 2.7 days entering Tuesday's action; Over the next seven weeks leading up to the February All-Star break, Los Angeles will play 25 games in 44 days, a game every 1.8 days.
Among those 25 games: the Los Angeles Lakers twice, the Denver Nuggets three times, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks twice, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Blazers again, the San Antonio Spurs and, on Wednesday night, the Miami Heat. In all, Lob City will play six back-to-backs and a back-to-back-to-back between now and the next Slam Dunk Contest sponsored by Kia.
NBA commissioner David Stern gifted them an all-world floor general and the schedule-makers granted the new-look league darlings a soft launch, but now things get real.
The brutal stretch got off on the wrong foot on Tuesday, a 105-97 loss to the Blazers that was marred by foul trouble for Chris Paul and early struggles for All-Star forward Blake Griffin. Griffin overcame a 2-for-8 start to finish 9-for-17 for 18 points and 12 rebounds, but he was stripped of the ball on a critical late-game possession and showered with boos normally reserved for the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Garnett as he protested, or sought, foul calls.
“We have competitive guys, we just have to do a better job with our spacing offensively,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said afterwards. “More so, just locking in defensively. I thought that they got some easy penetration on us. We have to continue to work with our big guys and get through some things to get them on the same page with our new guards.”
The early numbers reveal Del Negro’s Clippers, now 4-3 on the season, to be a one-sided bunch. Ranked as a top-3 offense, L.A. is a bottom-6 defense and the second worst team when it comes to rebounding rate. (Only the 1-8 Washington Wizards are worse.) Their offense is buoyed by Paul’s all-around play and the high-efficiency looks he generates for Griffin and Jordan, but there is a significant energy expense in creating the highlight reel plays, and it will be up to players like Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler to prove they can be consistent tertiary scoring options.
Billups and Butler kept L.A. in the game against the Blazers, scoring 39 combined points and getting to the foul line 11 times. Those efforts were spoiled because Paul was lost to foul trouble for much of the first half.
“It was some bogus stuff that was going on out there,” Paul said of the officiating. "You know what I mean? But it’s part of the game. I know those guys and they flop on you but it goes like that sometimes."
Paul finished with 11 points, 3 assists and two turnovers in 31 minutes,
“He got in some early foul trouble on some questionable calls,” Del Negro added. “He was a little bit tentative. He missed a couple of easy ones early and could never really get going.”
Although Del Negro went on to say, “We need everybody, it’s not just one guy,” the Clippers will need more from Paul, their blockbuster trade acquisition. While his shooting numbers are excellent, his scoring so far – 14.8 points per game – is down from previous years and his 8.4 assists are the fewest since his rookie year. He’s adjusting to new teammates, a new city and a new coach, so L.A.’s easy start was a major blessing.
But the loss to Portland was a reminder that, barring another major trade, this team will live-and-die with Paul’s effectiveness. The drop-off in talent after the Clippers’ top-6 guys is steep so dominance is required from CP3.
“Paul does a good job with defending,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “He reaches for the ball, he defends well and a couple of times early in the first half the officials caught it which really changed the tempo for them when he went out of the game.”
Blazers point guard Raymond Felton went hard at Paul throughout on Tuesday, finishing with 17 points and 8 assists, and Paul was not able to establish Griffin in the post until it was too late. Portland was content with letting Billups and Butler get their shots from outside, where L.A. is shooting just 31.4 percent as a team so far this season.
“Tonight we got more aggressive on the pick-and-roll defense, we were trapping the post-ups,” McMillan said. “We didn't let Griffin really play in the paint… The one thing we needed to do was be aggressive, make this team shoot from the outside, finish with the rebounds. I thought we did that.”
McMillan’s Blazers are, perhaps, the surprise team of 2011-2012, off to a 7-2 start when many predicted they would be a lower-seed playoff team. Tuesday’s win was revenge for a New Year’s Day shellacking in Los Angeles, when the Clippers beat Portland, 93-88, in a game that was much more one-sided than the final score indicated.
For all of Portland’s homecourt advantage – the Blazers are now 6-0 at the Rose Garden this season – and Paul’s foul trouble, and Griffin’s struggles, and L.A.’s lack of a bench, the Clippers were within 3 points with less than 30 seconds to play. One Paul steal from potentially stealing what would have been the early season’s signature win.
“That's a very good team over there,” McMillan said, knowing he dodged a bullet.
Welcome, Clippers, to the world of “no favors.” Glad you could make it.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:01 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
A recent report indicated that USA Basketball is set to announce its preliminary roster for the 2012 London Olympics. The roster reportedly will include members of the 2008 Beijing Olympics team and the 2010 Turkey World Championships team.
Initially, the report indicated that the preliminary roster would be made up of 18 players, however SheridanHoops.com reports that the roster is now 19 players deep with the addition of Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Here's how the reported roster shakes out by position.
Point Guards: Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade
Small Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Lamar Odom
Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love
Centers: Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard
A few interesting things to note from this roster.
First, veteran point guard Billups is included rather than the younger and more talented Rajon Rondo, who withdrew from the 2010 team after it became clear he was going to be left off of the final roster. Billups is 35 and figures to be one of the seven players cut from what will be the final 12-man roster. What does Rondo's exclusion mean for his Team USA future?
Second, positional versatility and two-way play was clearly valued in this selection process. The inclusion of both Iguodala and Odom over Rudy Gay is a mild surprise but both players complement the likes of James, Durant and Anthony a bit better. Both will also have a tough time squeezing into the final 12. The only way Iguodala gets there is if someone else is injured; Odom, a standout for the 2010 team, could be one of the toughest cuts.
Third, the reported addition of Aldridge creates an intriguing frontcourt logjam, akin to the dilemma that faces Western Conference All-Star team voters. Aldridge, Griffin, Love, Odom and Chandler figure to be in competition for the final two roster spots, with the top-10 seemingly secure. Griffin would seem to be the odds-on favorite for one of those two spots given his combination of on-court skills and immense international marketing potential. If so, the battle for the final spot between the other four talented big men will be heated.
Aldridge can swing between the four and five better than any of the other candidates, but he also has the least Team USA experience, having backed out on the 2010 World Championships team. Aldridge's coach with the Blazers, Nate McMillan, happens to be a Team USA assistant, so that could help.
Love is the best rebounder of the group but his athleticism, even though it's much improved, is not on the same level as the rest of Team USA. Chandler boasts a championship pedigree with the Dallas Mavericks and is the pure defender and long, active big men that could be the centerpiece of an aggressive defensive unit. Odom's versatility and perimeter game creates mismatch opportunities but the wings are likely too crowded on this team to properly utilize his capabilities.
Spain, the reigning European champs, bring both Pau and Marc Gasol to the table. Howard plus any of Team USA's starting power forwards should still have an interior advantage, but choosing the reserve big men will be critical in the event of foul trouble.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 1:54 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:33 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
With the 2012 London Olympics just seven months away, Team USA is reportedly heading for its first round of roster cuts.
ESPN.com reports that USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo will announce a roster of 18 "candidates" to make the 2012 team in less than two weeks.
"We have so much talent right now, the pool is extraordinary," Colangelo said.The site reports that the only player not on either the 2008 Beijing Olympics team or the 2010 Turkey World Championships team who is under consideration is Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin. Given his starpower, Griffin seems a lock, leaving 17 spots in the pool.
Eight of those are expected to go to 2008 Beijing Gold Medal-winning players: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams. All seem solid locks.
That least nine spots for members of the 2010 World Championship team. Six players who would seem to be locks from that roster: Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.
That leaves three final spots in the 18-man pool contenders for the rest: Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, Brook Lopez, Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo.
The toughest decision at this stage will likely come in choosing a third true center in Lopez or another talented perimeter player in Granger, Iguodala or Odom. USA Basketball has been built on versatility and athleticism in the recent past but its wings are crowded with an embarrassment of riches. Love and/or Griffin could swing up from power forward to center, though, which could free up a spot for another wing in the 18-man group.
Another question is Rondo. He withdrew from selection from the 2010 team after it became clear he wasn't going to make the cut. Given the big names in front of him (Paul, Rose, Williams and likely Westbrook), what happens here? Paul and Williams both have recent injury concerns and Rondo's talent level is such that leaving him off this early would seem a risk not worth taking.
No matter how you slice it and regardless of who is left on the outside looking in, this team is stacked. Looking ahead, assuming full health from all involved, an 18-player pool and a final 12-man roster could look something like this. Cuts designated in parentheses.
PG: Paul, Rose, Williams, (Westbrook), (Rondo)
SG: Bryant, Wade, (Gordon)
SF: James, Durant, Anthony, (Gay)
PF: Bosh, Griffin, (Love)
C: Howard, Chandler, (Lopez)
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:56 pm
By Matt Moore
This was all too predictable. Stars these days never let the razzle dazzle hang around. Unless they're the Heat. And then they're hated.
When Blake Griffin was recorded saying "Lob City!" when he found out the Clippers had acquired Chris Paul, he had no idea what it would create. It's an easy, catchy phrase with a little bit of... pardon the phrase, swag, and that's going to catch fire. And it did. And now he hates it. And Paul does, too.
From ESPN L.A. :
"It's unfortunate," Griffin said. "It's one of those things where we understand it, but that's not what we're about. Before the game we're not going out thinking, 'All right, its Lob City tonight.' We're just trying to win games and trying to get better."via Clippers are triple towers, not 'Lob City' - ESPN Los Angeles.
The Clippers may not want it, but the fans need it. Basketball junkies, and even more so Laker fans, will hate the cliche need for a nickname for a team. But teams with identities transcen culture, provided they are actually great. Showtime, the Bad Boys ( and to an incredibly leser extent, Seven Seconds or Less), these teams attain a higher leve of notoriety based on that nickname identity.
It's understandable that Paul will want to move away from that. Every time the Clippers struggle on defense, it's somehow attributed to a false desire on the Clippers' part to just put up highlights. This team wants to win. But that nickname is cool, the identity is fun, and it puts them on another level. The Clippers can run Lob City while also playing smart on both sides of the ball and winning championships.
The nickname isn't what's standing in their way. Their play is.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 8:39 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 8:41 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
The Los Angeles Clippers took a major step towards rehabilitating their image as a second-class organization with a bad owner in Donald Sterling when they landed All-Star point guard Chris Paul in a preseason trade with the New Orleans Hornets. But the pieces moved in exchange for Paul have nothing but bad things to say about how the trade went down.
Yahoo Sports reports that guard Eric Gordon and center Chris Kaman were both blindsided by the trade. Gordon says he was lied to by GM Neil Olshey and Clippers management and Kaman expressed disappointment that he wasn't treated more professionally after nearly a decade spent playing for the team.
“All you do is take the man’s word and take that he said that no one is going to go anywhere,” Gordon told Yahoo! Sports. “… To completely lie like that is something unprofessional.”In the hours after the Clippers/Hornets trade was finally consummated, word spread that Gordon found out about it while on a bus full of Clippers season ticketholders. At that point it was immediately clear that this trade would be met with hard feelings. Going from playing in a media mecca alongside Blake Griffin to a tenuous basketball outpost destined for the lottery was going to be a tough pill to swallow no matter what. Feeling like you were duped and deceived only makes the taste in the mouth that much worse.
If there's any defense of the Clippers on this one, it centers around the sheer lunacy of being involved in trade talks that include the league office and NBA commissioner David Stern. With Stern shutting down a 3-team trade proposal for Paul involving the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets prior to approving the Clippers' package, it's very possible that Olshey and company honestly believed there wouldn't be a major roster shake up. Trades develop quickly in the NBA and secrecy and expediency are valued commodities. It's unreasonable to expect a GM to break off of a trade call to phone one of his star plays to let him know, "Guess what? I might be trading you now." There's always time for fence-mending after the fact.
While the trade damage is done -- with Gordon and Kaman likely to get over it, at least mostly, with the help of the passage of time -- this episode becomes an important reminder for the Clippers. Producing a first-class basketball organization involves treating players -- past, present and future -- in a first-class manner and with consistent professionalism. Karma tends to govern behind-the-scenes dealings in the NBA and this sure looks like another strike in the negative column for Sterling and company.
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:17 am
Edited on: December 20, 2011 10:18 am
By Matt Moore
The new and improved version of the Clippers took the floor Monday night for the first time in a preseason game against the Lakers. The results were impressive. The Clippers ran the Lakers' starters (who definitely looked like a team with new parts trying to integrate a new system) out of the building, and in doing so, showed off why they may break our Dunk-O-Meter this season.
The best dunk of the night wasn't actually a lob. It was just DeAndre Jordan going into Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum's house and taking their lunches, then eating it in front of them.
But if you want lobs? They've got lobs. CP3 wasn't even involved on this one.
But hey, not like CP3 wasn't involved at all.
It was preseason. It was one game. It means nothing. But you can already tell that if the Clippers stay healthy (which is a big if for this franchise), they're going to be one of the most exciting teams in the league.
Welcome to Lob City. Please enjoy your stay.