Am I the only Clipper fan who believes in their heart that the Clippers would have won tonight's game if they had a better coach?
I believe tonight's game was an excellent example of why Dunleavy's "just give me healthy players and I'll win" statements are NOT TRUE.
Logic: Arguably, tonight the Clippers had MORE and "BETTER" healthy players than the Pacers. Dunleavy's own son did not play. Granger did not play. MDSr would be stupid to argue that the Pacers had more healthy players than the Clippers...so the Clippers should have won. That is Dunleavy's argument, isn't it?
So what flaws did tonight's game highlight in Dunleavy's coaching?
1. His Worst Fatal Flaw - Overconfidence and Arrogance
Clipper players find out the other team will have no stars on the floor and come out soft (except for Baron maybe). The effort is decent but not enough to put away the Pacers, just enough to stay slightly ahead.
As a coach Dunleavy should have thought this at about 3 minutes into the 2nd quarter...
"Man my guys can't make a shot! Chris, Al and Rasual can't seem to buy one! We should be up by much more. If we let them hang around like this, these Pacer bench guys might beat us, especially since we're on their court. I've got to mix things up a little and try some other guys and see if any of them can get hot."
Sure, it's possible you could lose the lead if your bench guys can't produce but your starters are dead cold anyway so it's not a huge risk. You manage it as it goes. Plus isn't that the whole point of having 15 players? You need to give guys a chance to come in with energy and mix things up. TAKE A CHANCE. Make your bench guys believe that they are better than the Pacers 2nd unit. Get them to play HARDER.
But no. Dunleavy probably thought...
"Our bench guys don't match up well against what the Pacers have out there. We'll get killed. Chris and Al will get hot. We just need to keep getting them the ball and eventually their shots will start falling."
Instead of being humble during the game and recognizing that this game was in danger, in enough danger to try and mix things up - Dunleavy was overconfident. He figured his guys were in a little slump and that they would click into gear and eventually pull away. He must have been thinking that. Why else would any coach leave in so many players who were CLEARLY having a bad night?
Dunleavy is arrogant. In competitive sports It may be an asset sometimes, but he displays it far too often for my liking. It's one thing to be Phil Jackson and arrogant, it's another to be Dunleavy. That kind of arrogance needs to be earned and backed up by some big guns. I don't think MDSrs earned anything yet and he doesn't have guns on the level of Kobe or MJ.
2. Failure to Recognize and React to Flow/Momentum
I don't know how many times I've heard Phil Jackson say "Momentum is a fickle girl. I thought the play where... got them the momentum so we have to try and get it back..." PJ is a master of recognizing and reacting to shifts in the game - whether it's the way the calls are going or the level of his teams energy.
Far too often, I feel Dunleavy calls timeouts too late. He doesn't seem to sense the need to change things BEFORE the other team starts taking away momentum. By the time he makes changes it's too late.
In tonight's game, Dunleavy for reasons unknown does not give Mardy a chance to stabilize the team early. He waits until the Pacers have overcome an 11 point deficit to take the lead in the 4th quarter. Clips have lost all momentum, on the road, with 6:25 left in the game trailing 74-70. Dunleavy bringing in Mardy at this point is a clear sign of desparation. He's grasping for straws now (he didn't even try Novak until the begining of the 4th and that wasn't working either).
The other team can sense when you're backpedaling. They sense desperation and at home, that gives them a great chance to win, especially if they have a lead. A good opponent will smell it and crush you. A bad team, at home will just find some way to beat you.
At halftime Dunleavy told Blanton "We're playing good defense, we're holding them to 30%..." or something like that. I laughed. The Clips were playing OK defense but the Pacers were just missing badly. In my book, I'm thinking "they're not gonna miss those looks the whole game!" Anyone who knows O'Brien's style of coaching knows that he tells his players to keep shooting it and it'll go in. He's all about letting players feel free to jack it up.
Dunleavy on the other hand is a control freak. There's a big difference in letting players feel free to shoot, giving them 20 FGAs and calling the same play over and over, force feeding a player 20 FGAs just because he's supposed to have the advantage.
3. Failure to Impose His Lineups
Of course I didn't have a chance to ask him, but there's a good chance that he didn't go to Mardy, Ricky or Novak earlier in the game because of his first 2 flaws, but also because Dunleavy seems to always insist on matching up to the other team.
He avoids gambling on the fact that maybe a different Clipper lineup would be more successful at any given time and FORCE THE OTHER COACH TO REACT.
In tonight's game, it was very clear that he thought Chris and Al should be winners in his matchup game. Whether at his instructions or not Al got 15 looks and Chris got 19. They made 5 shots between the both of them.
A good coach needs to realize that just because your guy wins on paper doesn't mean that you keep going to him over and over again if it's NOT WORKING. At a certain point, ESPECIALLY ON THE ROAD, you have to cut your losses, bench your horse and tell him "Sorry, it's not your night. I have to try something else."
Chris should not have played 39 minutes tonight. What about the matchup? It;s called trying Skinner or Craig Smith. Force the Pacers to adjust to them.
At one point in the second quarter, Ralph noted how O'Brien had swapped everyone out on the Pacer team because basically his entire first unit was not getting it done. The Pacers' coach took a chance and it worked.
How many times as Clipper fans do we see MDSr take a chance at the right time? How often does he make drastic substitutions when the team needs it the most, before the other guys swipe away the momentum for good. Not often enough.
Sure the blame for tonight's loss must ultimately fall on the players. Coaches can scream all they want but if Chris and Al are throwing up clunkers - that's on them.
However, I do believe that a good coach recognizes shifts early and takes calculated risks in matchups in favor of better energy and defense and Dunleavy has consistently shown that he will not do that.
Dunleavy is overly arrogant and stubborn. His in-game decisions seem to be based more on stats and paper matchups, when he should be more sensitive to the flow of the game and the shifts in momentum. His failure to do so has cost the Clippers many close games, and it will inevitably contribute to future losses against teams they should beat.
I firmly believe that the Clippers would have won tonight's game with a better coach. The Clippers had more talent and had a day's rest. The Pacers were wounded and short handed. They shot badly and gave the Clips every opportunity to kill any hope of victory in the first quarter.
Unless the players playing tonight had some unknown ailments or injuries, I believe this one's on the Chicken Man.