It's a indication of how abysmal the Clippers have been at times this season that I can watch a game in which they gave up 142 points and lost by 23 and say afterwards: "that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be."
The outset of the game is beside the point. With something in the neighborhood of 28 feet of bigs unavailable for the Clippers tonight, there was no way the Clippers were going to win this one. None. So although Al Thornton kept them close early, the outcome was never in doubt. At least the Clippers actually led this game briefly early in the second quarter. Trailing to the same team for 96 minutes would have been really embarrassing (as opposed to just losing by an average of 31.5 and giving up an average of 141, which was only a little embarrassing).
There are a few huge problems with this team right now that need to be addressed.
Here are the field goal percentages for Clipper opponents in the month of February:
- Miami, February 2 - 56%
- Orlando, February 4 - 57%
- Memphis, February 6 - 49%
- Atlanta, February 7 - 45%
- Charlotte, February 9 -52%
- New York, February 11 -45%
- Phoenix, February 17 - 62%
- Phoenix, February 18 - 59%
Half of the last 8 opponents shot better than 55% - all of them have shot over 45%. The Clippers have given up 119 or more in 5 of those games. The team's defense has gone way past poor. I really don't know how to describe it.
Marcus Camby has missed the last three games, and that has hurt to be sure. And the size discrepancy with the Suns hurt as well. But this is not an isolated incident. The team has completely abandoned any semblance of a defensive attitude - it's pretty clear that the team as a whole is following the lead of Baron Davis ("We don't pride ourselves in our defense") on this one.
During the off-season, I mused that perhaps Ricky Davis, Baron Davis and Jason Williams could form a 'Cancer Survivors Support Group' in LA, all three of them having developed less than stellar locker room reputations in their NBA careers. Well, Jason Williams retired, but the Clippers brought in Zach Randolph to fill that available 'head case' roster spot.
The issues have for the most part not been in the forefront. No arrests, no public run ins, etc. But the whispers of discord with the coach have been there all along. And now for these two games at least, we've seen some incredibly immature behavior.
In the Phoenix game, with the team already playing without their three best post defenders, Zach Randolph stupidly threw an unprovoked left at Louis Amundson, knowing full well that he would miss that game and likely more (it ended up being a two game suspension). A very immature play that hurt the team badly.
Tonight, with Zach now suspended such that the Clippers were even more short-handed, Ricky Davis picked up two technicals at the end of the third quarter and got himself chased. It's not even clear what Ricky was arguing about. If he wanted Baron's last second shot to count, well that's a really lame reason to get a technical foul. For one thing, the shot was clearly late. But more importantly, the officials were going to review the play anyway. That's what they do at the end of a quarter. So whether they initially counted it or waved it off, they were planning to watch the replay and get it right. Arguing about it was completely pointless.
We're almost immune to it now. Our expectations have been steadily downgraded from 'All Star' to 'Top NBA point guard' to 'solid NBA point guard' to 'starting NBA point guard' to 'please get him out of the game.' Interestingly, MDsr did just that in the second quarter tonight: with Baron's minutes quite low and no foul trouble, MDsr replaced him with Mardy Collins for the last 3 minutes of the first half, which is the first time I can recall that happening this season.
Even in the second half, when he made 6 of 9 shots to finish with 14 points, he just looked terrible. He is slow, he can't jump, he can't move laterally and he can't shoot. Some players appear to play in slow motion - in a good way. A guy like Brandon Roy never seems to be going too fast, but he just gets by his man time and time again and the game looks simple for him. Baron Davis appears to be in slow motion too - in a very, very bad way. The game does not look at all simple for him right now. He looks like he's moving more slowly than the other players because he IS moving more slowly than the other players. Think about this - how many times did Fred Jones get to the rim in 30 minutes. How many times did Baron? He is either physically incapacitated, or simply disinterested. But he shouldn't be on the floor.
I'll tell you this much - Tracy McGrady has been terrible this year, and is having micro fracture surgery after 12 long, hard seasons in the league, and he'll be 30 before he plays basketbal again. TMac's career may be over. And I'd trade Baron Davis for him in a nanosecond.
I'll leave you with a few positives from this game, though I'm not sure what the point is.
- DeAndre Jordan played pretty well. In 36 minutes he had 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 9 points. His positioning was better on defense (though still not very good). He boxed out on the glass, and as a result he out-rebounded Shaq 11 to 6. Playing against Shaq probalby helped him focus on boxing out - for one thing, it's hard not to know where the guy is. He needs to do a better job of boxing out every game, but that is certainly something he can learn. He actually converted 2 free throws on the same trip to the line for the first time this season. It's interesitng that his form looks fine on free throws. He's not Shaq or Chuck Hayes up there with a nightmare motion. But despite decent mechanics, the ball doesn't go in. He has lots to work on this summer, but if I'm his coach, free throws and boxing out are 1 and 1a. Post moves can wait another year.
- Al Thornton scored well with a season high 33 points on 14 for 27 shooting. His inconsistency is quite maddening. Oh, and 3 rebounds in 37 minutes from the power forward position is not acceptable. Al had 1 defensive rebounds, and Amare Stoudemire had 5 offensive rebounds.
- Eric Gordon on the other hand is quite steady - astoundingly so for a rookie. He scored 23 points on 12 shots tonight. He also had 6 assists, 5 rebounds and only 1 turnover, which are solid numbers. Let's hope we see more of those.
The Suns get another bad defensive team when they host Oklahoma City on Friday. And then on Sunday we get to find out how real this is, when they host the Celtics. Many, many people are happy about the return of high paced basketball to the Valley of the Sun - Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Alvin Gentry among them. But probably no one is happier than the guys at ABC - the Suns are on national TV on Sunday, and they are fun to watch again.