As the 2010-11 campaign comes to an end, the Clippers are still dealing with problems at the defensive end that are preventing them from consistently keeping pace with opponents. And the lack of true effort and subsequent inability to keep opposing players off of the glass was instrumental in the Clippers squandering another opportunity to keep pace with a Western Conference contender as the team visited the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday.
While it hasn't exactly been feast or famine at the defensive end for the majority of the season, the Clippers have succeeded, and stumbled, equally against the league's weakest and strongest opponents. And considering the various lineups head coach Vinny Del Negro has been forced to use due to injury and the February trade of Baron Davis, the culprits are found throughout the roster when it comes to letdowns at one point or another on defense.
The prevailing issue is a reactive, rather than anticipatory, nature at the defensive end. Rather than rotating to spots where shooters will be or darting into passing lanes due to an opponent's eyes wandering away from the rack, players are typically defending with flat feet and waiting for the ball to go up or off to another player. The result in this one was an insurmountable 87 tallied points in three quarters for the Thunder.
The listlessness has then frequently resulted in opponents destroying the Clippers on the glass by repeatedly grabbing offensive rebounds that nary a Clipper is in sight to snatch for himself. Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins feasted on the one-on-none rebounding opportunities he was given by pulling down 10 offensive boards, and his team ended up with 19 in all as the Clippers did not box out and lost track of their men once a shot went up.
Defense may not win the Clippers a championship next season, but it will certainly go a long way towards putting them back in the Western Conference picture. And perhaps simple actions, such as smoothly shuffling to stay with opponents and putting a body on someone when a shot is fired up, are the answers to the team's quest for another playoff berth. Next up are big men Brendan Haywood and Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of Dallas on the road Friday.
THUNDER 112, CLIPPERS 108: The Thunder were money at the foul line and took good care of the basketball against a passive Clipper defense, ending up 25-for-29 at the stripe and committing just 12 turnovers while dropping the Clippers to 31-48 overall and 9-30 at home. The tandem of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were far more effective in this one than in their last outing versus Los Angeles, netting a combined 55 points after tallying just 32 on Saturday.
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