Alright, so this started out as a comment to Citizen bestclipfan's recap of the game today, but I had a lot of thoughts (as you can all see) so I made it a FanPost. No disrespect to bestclipfan. I was there, which means that the Clippers' record drops to 2-1 with me in attendance, but that still means I've seen 25% of their victories to this point.
It was definitely tough to take, but it was good to see a line-up that was giving it a great effort, despite the fact that after Jones went down there were only eight Clippers in uniform. I didn't have a good view, but I was pretty sure that Baron was not even on the bench, which I take to mean that Grandma's cooking is better than Clipper basketball (anyone who watched on TV, feel free to tell me that I just didn't see him).
There were a lot of things to take from this game, so I'll start with the bad. Seeing Fred Jones go down was not fun, knowing that we were down our fifth point guard in Mardy Collins. It didn't help that I was surrounded by Piston fans, though I've gotten used to that at Clipper games. With an absurd seven injuries, I wasn't sure how the Clippers were even staying competitive, albeit against a Piston team missing Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton. They got off to a good start, but as the game wore on, it was clear that this was a two man team of Gordon and Camby.
Starting with the defense, does anybody have any clue why Dunleavy was using a match-up zone against the Pistons. I counted more than five times that I saw Allen Iverson wide open. It was clear that the Clippers didn't know how to play that kind of defense since I'd never seen them use it. They continually got confused, yet Dunleavy stuck with it which gave the Pistons a lot of open shots. The Pistons just placed their guards on the baseline, which forced guys like Novak and Davis to try to guard Iverson and Stuckey. You don't change defense in the middle of the year. I realize that they may not be the best shooting team around, but you can't continually give any NBA team good opportunites to score. Despite the odd choice in defense, the Clippers were still able to hold the Pistons to just 88 points and Gordon did a good job contatating Iverson for the most part, though Iverson was able to negate this by taking it at Collins' side of the zone.
Al Thornton is quickly turning into a below average basketball player. I've heard of sophmore slumps, but I really can't figure out what's been going on with him. I'm going to start calling him the black hole, because once you throw the ball to him, it never comes back out. In the second half, I'm pretty sure I only saw Al make one pass, and it was when he, for the first time, saw that a drive to the basket was failing. The pass was off target and turned into a Clipper turnover. Al continues to take multiple jab steps and then throw up a bad fadeaway jumper. He doesn't realize that the only thing that he's got going for him right now are his drives to the bucket. Even those are failing, though, as defenses collapse, knowing that as soon as he drives, he'll shoot. He's got to keep the defense honest with a pass every once in a while.
I know that we have very limited offense with the ridiculous number of injuries, but c'mon, has Dunleavy ever heard of a set play. The least he could do is run some sort of a standard motion offense with this line-up which has no one-on-one capabilites (with the exception of Eric Gordon). I mean, you can't iso with a line-up that consists of Mardy Collins, Steve Novak, Al Thornton, Brian Skinner and Marcus Camby. I nearly lost my voice yelling "Dunleavy, try running a play." However, he seems pretty oblivious to the advances made in offense over the past hundred years. He forces inexperienced and not very talented players to make plays for themselves. They seem to have no plays which require passing the ball two times. Honestly, I only saw plays that consisted of an off ball screen, a pass and shot. That barely requires two players to defend.
That said, I have no idea how we overcame an eight point defecit late, considering we ran one play (Mardy gives the ball to Gordon on the near wing, Gordon drives and tries to get a shot and/or get fouled; if he misses, hope Camby is there to put it back in). Gordon really electrified what was a true lazy Sunday crowd, scoring five points in a row to put the Clippers up by one. I mean, Clipper Darryl didn't even show up until after halftime. I was so pumped to see the show that EJ was putting on. I mean, the Clippers had literally no offense except for him, and the rookie found a way to step up. He has been so impressive on both ends of the floor, which is why the defense was pissing me off so much. He should have been guarding Iverson or Stuckey, but he was stuck on one side of the court because of the match-up zone. The Pistons learned to drive away from him and forced the Clippers second line of defense to make a play. Gordon can really do it all offensively, though. I have to admit, I did not like him out of Indiana. He shot a poor percentage, but I guess that really can be attributed to the wrist injury, because he looks so much better this year. To score 31 of a teams 87 points is incredible, regardless of the talent, or lack thereof, of the rest of the players. He can do it all.
Camby continues to impress. His play reminds me of Kobe (WAIT! Let me explain) in the sense that I went to a Laker game last year with my friend (needless to say a big Laker fan). My friend marveled at how Kobe had a ho hum game and still scored over thirty. Camby does the same, but with rebounding. He looks like he's having an average game (with the exception of the few great hustle plays he makes every game), and then you look on the scoreboard and you see another 20 rebound game. He is my favorite Clipper, and it pains me to watch him have to go through this in the twilight of his career.
Quick props also go out to Steve Novak and DeAndre Jordan for providing some big minutes off of the bench. I wasn't expecting anything out of a bench that consisted of three players, considering what we've seen out of a much fuller bench.
The last thing that I want to write about is the last play. Now, the goal tending call on Al Thornton was truly questionable, and I don't mean that in a negative way towards the referees. To me, it was a toss-up. They showed the replay a few times on the big screen at Staples, and it looked (at least from the views they gave) to be at the very top of its flight. I realize that Allen Iverson is going to get the call over Al Thornton in that case, but I just hate to see the referees make a crucial call late in a ball game, especially a winnable one for the Clippers. If they were decisive with the call, I would have been more understanding, but they seemed really unsure, and in my mind, that seems like a time when you've got to swallow your whistle. No opponent of the Clippers need any more help than the basic fact that they're playing Clippers. It probably was a goal tend, but I just can't stand referees having a major say in the outcome of a basketball game.
Anways, here are my REAL last thoughts. Kudos to Eric Gordon for his play today; he is so fun to watch and I'm appreciative that he got a shot off in those last three seconds to give me hope for that half a second it was airborne. I saw Tayshaun guarding him and I was thinkning "Oh no," but I was surprised to see him get to the ball and get a decent shot off in the face of one of the league's best defenders. Marcus Camby needs to keep doing what he's doing (or the opposite of what Baron's doing, they're the same). He's great to watch when you really appreciate the hustle plays. Thanks for not faking an injury and sitting out (*cough* Baron *cough*).
And, I finally figured out why Baron is such a great player. You get the same contribution from him whether he's on the bench or on the floor.