Talk about your train wrecks: the Clipper Express degraded from its woeful Detroit stop and went off the rails in Toronto, and it now heads into Boston tomorrow. That could be really ugly, with the champion Celtics probably remembering all too well their improbable loss at Staples Center. But the Celtics are a good team. The Raptors definitely are not. Except, of course, when they play the Clippers.
This game actually held a lot of attractive items for the many Clipper fans who want to get rid of the coach/GM and blow up the roster. Maybe CS needed to sneak away in order for the devolutionary plan to kick into high gear. Of course MDSr. has the always-handy excuse, as the oft-maligned Al Thornton, who has been playing better since the wacky DTS yelled at him, was out for this game. The long-awaited Camby-Randolph-Kaman mashup looked disfunctional for the second game in a row, providing little in the way of defense and rebounding. Zbo at least got off to a fast start, hitting his first few shots and scoring 10 in the first quarter, but nobody else could make anything. Whatever it is that's making the Clipper attack funky--and in this game, Baron Davis ended his streak of strong statistical performances, and did that rather decisively--something seems very different from the time when Randolph was carrying the Clips at midseason, putting up big numbers and keeping them competitive. It really is hard to say what it is. Perhaps it's ball movement, perhaps it a bit less vigor and energy from Camby, perhaps it's being on the road on a Sunday afternoon at the end of a disastrous season, but whatever it is, on this day the Clippers were a really poor excuse for a basketball team.
There are no good reasons to watch a Clipper game right now. There are still a few semi-decent reasons to watch, aside of course from being a compulsive, self-loathing fan. One of them is to see how Camby, Randolph, and Kaman team up. No, don't count that one. They were terrible and barely mediocre at their very best, and this was one of those games where Zbo seems to get empty stats, although he did keep the Clips competitive for the first 5 minutes. Kaman is cruising along, kind of out of it, not looking very effective coming off the bench. The rebounding numbers are simply horrendous, as the Clips were outrebounded by 20 and got 2 offensive boards. So let's just say that the 3 big men thing hasn't really come together yet.
Reason #2 is rookie Eric Gordon, consistent, mature, statistically solid. Except in this game. Gordon's recent efforts are a pretty good indicator of the funk. Now that he's finally being publicized, teams are quite aware of him, and all of a sudden he's not getting the ball and hardly getting any shots. He can make something out of very little, as he did against Detroit, or he can wait around to go nuts, as he did against the Wizards. Or he can start to force things just a bit, and play one of only two or three poor games this entire season, which is what happened today. And a poor game from Eric Gordon is a pretty good game for a fair number of other guys. He had a couple of nice blocks that were fun to watch, just crushing one jumper by Calderon--so he's within 10 of Kevin Love now, I think. But overall it was a dark, rather depressed effort, and certainly not a reason to watch. If you're looking for reasons to criticize Dunleavy, however, the Clippers inability to get Gordon involved is a pretty good one.
The Steve Novak Experience? Mano a mano against Jason Kapono? Kapono didn't shoot well and didn't need to. Novak chalked up 3 out of 4 from deep in the box score, but two of them came late, helping the Clips clear the 70 point barrier, and overall it was a pretty joyless 75% outing. Other teams are very much aware now of The Steve Novak Experience. The idea is that it's supposed to open up other opportunities, if they're going to overplay somebody who is standing 25 feet away from the basket. But that doesn't seem to be happening.
In the end it was just an ugly tank all around from the Clipper guards, and Baron Davis led the way in the stinkfest. After putting together a string of good games, he seemed both lackadaisical in getting after the ball, and more determined to find his own shot than to help Gordon get good looks. The BD assist machine was turned off, and the theory that he might flourish when playing with superior shooters in Gordon and Novak took a solid hit. Mardy Collins came back nicely, going to the basket rather artfully a few times, but he needs to remember that he's not a scorer and should be looking to kick to Novak. Fred Jones tallied up another non-shooter effort, and Mike Taylor had one nice move and was out of control half a dozen times. It was ugly. Thanks for the ping pong balls.
And let's just conclude the celebration by saying that Dunleavy and his system didn't look too sharp, for the second game in a row.
I just hope that most people were watching the NCAA tournament. Maybe it was the nasty Bruin defeat that soured my stomach for the noxious Clipper flavor of the day, for which I usually have more tolerance.
Thanks a lot CS. But the truth is, after all your hard work, I don't mind taking taking this bullet at all. On to Boston!