When I mentioned in my Greg Oden post earlier today that it could be worse in Clips Nation, I was referring to injuries and the deflation of high hopes. As if to prove my point however, the Clippers went into Conseco Fieldhouse tonight and proved that things can always get worse on the court also.
The Clippers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and led by three at the end of the first quarter. And it went downhill - fast - from there. The Pacers won the second quarter by 13, the third by 11, and the garbage-filled fourth by 6. The Clippers shot 33% for the game, or 1 in 3 shots. That number is even more remarkable when you consider that they made 5 of their first 7 shots. From that point forward, the Clippers were 22 for 74, which is less than 30%.
Indiana's defense had something to do with that. The Pacers blocked a remarkable 14 shots, including 5 by shooting guard Brandon Rush. But it also had to do with stagnant Clippers offense. There was no movement whatsoever, and most plays were pick and roll, drive and kick. If you have the right personnel, that can be really effective, but you never want to be too predictable. The Clippers were way too predictable and they don't really have the right personnel to thrive in constant pick and roll.
This all happened against an Indiana team missing it's starting backcourt (Darren Collison has a bum ankle and Mike Dunleavy was with his wife who was giving birth to their new baby). And it's not as if Indiana is the most imposing team in the first place. But they played hard, they shot well, and they basically beat the Clippers every way you can beat a team.
The Clippers defense, and in particular their perimeter defense, has been nothing short of abysmal this season. Opponents are making almost 44% of their threes against the Clippers, which is the worst three point defense in the NBA, and is significantly above the league average of 36%. The Clippers are also near the bottom in overall field goal percentage allowed.
This game did nothing to halt those trends. Indiana made 14 of 26 threes, the fifth time this season the Clippers have allowed 10 or more threes, and the fifth time in the last six games that they've allowed an opponent to make at least half of their threes. Coming into this game, Indiana was shooting about 37% from three, pretty near the league average. But everyone suddenly becomes way above average when they play the Clippers.
I said that it went downhill fast, but actually, it seemed like the wheels were coming off in slow motion in the second quarter. A spate of missed free throws kept the Clippers from trimming the lead back down. A lucky shot by T.J. Ford after a somewhat mysterious jump ball call was a two point gift to the Pacers. A botched final possession for the Clippers led to a Ford layup the other way at the buzzer. Suddenly, the Pacers had a 10 point halftime lead in what had seemed like a close game to that point. For some reason, the Clippers then decided not to compete at all in the second half.
Nobody played well for the Clippers. Eric Gordon, in his third trip back to his hometown of Indianapolis, had a strong first quarter scoring 11 points, and then had a nightmare the rest of the way. He finished the game with 19 points on 5 for 17 shooting. He made 3 of his first 6 shots, and then went 2 for 11 after that. He had three shots blocked. Blake Griffin had a forgettable 12 points and 8 rebounds and missed all three of his free throws. DeAndre Jordan missed all seven of his shot attempts, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that he never shot from more than two feet away from the basket.
There's not a lot more to say about this game. One thing is for certain: if the Clippers don't figure out how to stop teams, it's going to be a very, very long season.