Loss #23: Oh well. Utah disrupts Clipper momentum

Kind of frustrating.  A bad third quarter, which we've seen too many times before and might have hoped was a thing of the past, along with a failure to defend the home floor.  This was an important test for the Clippers, as they were in a position to maintain their momentum and play well against a good team, one which is a bit of a nemesis.  I only say "a bit" because of the fact that there are a whole bunch of teams that bedevil the Clippers.  I guess until you break through, you don't break through.  

It's hard to focus on silver linings coming off a nice skein of victories.  The Clippers played well in the first half, although there were a number of qualifiers to that statement, which set the stage the poor second half and the defeat.  I'll try to get into some Likes and Dislikes of my own, but I'm curious to get the National input, and where things might be going.  The Clips have a break coming up, and you might want to suggest some topics for discussion over the next couple of days before SP gets back.

So yeah, apologies again for not putting up any sort of mediocre recap or thoughts after the game.  Heading up to sleep, this time mildly frustrated, as opposed to the contentment of the night before.  But it seems like nobody had much to say after the game on the comment thread.  Like I said, frustrating.  So it turns out that the Clippers won't win 50 games this year.  

And there are some notes on frustration below, after the jump. 

I don't have as much time as yesterday, or the inclination, to dig deep on this one.  We've seen the classic 3rd quarter implosion many times before.  The Jazz are a tough team with a great coach, and that coach has instilled a mindset that if they stick to their game and play hard for 48 minutes, they can neutralize a hot team, on the road or at home, it doesn't much matter.  We got to see this in action, as the Clippers got off to a very nice start, then lost a little focus, and then lost some more.  The next thing you know their shots weren't falling, the lead was gone, and they weren't able to mount a comeback.  They didn't quite give up, and they remained an open 3pt. shot away from turning it into a two possession game right up to the end.  But it was a drag.  Until the Clippers can get a little bit tougher and more focused, and gain more experience and refine their execution, it's going to be the same old same old.  But it will be next year, as the Clippers are mercifully done with the Jazz for the season.

The Clips got a great start from, well, just about everybody, from Griffin and Jordan in particular, and then AFA coming off the bench.  The AFA first half explosion was tempered, in a very serious way, by the way that he provided a blueprint for Gordon Hayward, showing him they can both play and thrive in the NBA.  Hayward got a start and seemed neutral at best in the first half, and then he played some very nice basketball in the second half.  Classic Clipper opponent confidence builder.   Welcome to the club, Mr. Hayward.

After Bill Plaschke's foul anti-citizen article yesterday (see the FanShot and comments), I'm thinking that we might want to use Indiana and Oklahoma (no, not Hollywood, BP) as short hand at times for the G Force.  That, and I'm curious about finding somebody or something to call "Earther," but I digress.   And BP put a jinx on EJ yesterday.  His hot shooting cooled off.  He wasn't getting the same open looks, and his feet weren't set, and Raja Bell played him tough.  Oklahoma was stellar once again, with nice numbers, but he was neutralized in the 3rd period debacle.  

DeAndre Jordan played a really good game, although he cooled off too.

Damn.  Running out of time.  I'm going to have to come back to this.  So there will be a longer version of this later.  I want to get into Mike Smith, and will mention the profanity issue on the game thread.  Let's just start by saying that FUSmith, or something along the lines of FElton, should suffice, if one feels so inclined, and it would be nice to keep the chaos to a minimum in SP's absence.  I don't know SP's exact policy, but this is a primary Clipper news, info and discussion source, and it might as well be available to little kids who like the team.  More later.

*  

Okay.  Picking up again.  Good notes in the thread below covering some key issues.  Jordan had a hot start, was perfect from the field, and did some impressive shotblocking.  But the Clippers were outrebounded, which is on him to a great extent since he only had 5 and Oklahoma had 14.  Jefferson is a handful and the Clippers needed more defense than what they got from Jordan, Blake Griffin, and Ike Diogu.  Another note below that Diogu didn't step up like he did in the previous game, and we know he can be helpful, but he's not going to be a savior.

Which brings us to Mike Smith.  I love Milph and Ralph Lawler is a hall of famer, and Mike Smith does a good job.  Are you kidding me?  But the thing is, sometimes he sets a problematic emotional tone.  His instincts are wacky and off-kilter.  Ralph reins him in pretty well, and Smith is just doing his job, and his emotional vagaries just happen to be a weak point in a pretty strong general package, which is the Milphness that brings out all kinds of great stuff from Ralphie Boy.  

Here's what he does, and last night was a perfect example.  The Clippers get off to a great start, and Oklahoma is making Milph salivate heavily.  They're dominant, they double up the Jazz for a moment, Millsap gets a second foul and they bring in Evans.  We know that Kirilenko is in streetclothes.  At this point Smith declares, more or less, that the Jazz are out of big men and the game is over.  

Somehow, and maybe it's the mission or the Mormon thing or the 10 kids or having some big scoring nights in Spain and getting excited, but Ralph is aware, like all of us, that Smith's cockiness and arrogance routinely lead to doom.  The Clippers start to turn the ball over.  Mehmet Okur appears:  I thought a minute ago the Jazz were out of big men.  Fasenko comes in and the Jazz start playing a zone.  Now, with two 7 footers on the floor and Millsap back as well, the Jazz aren't just big, they're huge.  The Clippers go from being dominant frontrunners to big trouble, and in a fight, and that's before the 3rd quarter collapse.  As a listener, it almost seems like Smith's hubris has played a metaphysical role in setting the stage for the Clippers evisceration and downfall.  

Perhaps FUMS will work as an incantation, an attempt to ward off the evil spirits he so often and readily invites.  It's worth a try.  The acronym is a good place to start for the basics, and the F U approach can work if he seems to be going out of his way to set up the jinx.  I would save the actual profanity for a Daniel Ewing-Raja Bell type moment, if Smith were to say "the Clippers have been great all night, and this game is in the bag."  It has its place.  But let's save it.

*

And another note on VDN and the subbing and rotations.  The is part of what is causing Smith problems, and if he would just review the games and think about them a little bit he could temper his enthusiasm and do a better job.  He didn't talk about how Rasual Butler was available, for instance, when Gomes and Foye and Bledsoe weren't geting it done.  But the main subbing and rotation item, to get to the topic, is how VDN is keeping BD on such a short rotation in the first quarter, and it seems like he has killed momentum and focus by bringing in Bledsoe and limiting BD's minutes.  The Clippers doubled up the Suns, the Kings and the Jazz with inspired first quarter play and great passing from BD (maybe they didn't quite double up the Jazz, but it was close I think).  Bledsoe can be a great catylist and he needs his minutes to grow and contribute, but he is a tricky element, and VDN needs to try to extend BD's minutes in a tough game like this, especially when things are going well.  When they're playing great, let them keep it going, and don't take your foot off the gas.  Leaving in the starters for a longer period in the first quarter is actually a way of showing confidence in your bench, because they will probably play more 2nd quarter minutes.  And it's not like he's taking BD out early and then having him start the 2nd period.  He's using him sparingly, and trying to get something out of Bledsoe and Foye.  I get it.  But against a team like Utah, with the team doing well with BD at the helm, play it out, give him a shot.

Of course, BD was on the floor for the first part of the 3rd quarter meltdown.  Everybody seemed to have a part in that debacle, but BD's minutes were more limited.  Milph needs to point out what's happening in the 1st quarter rotation from BD to Bledsoe.  VDN's system isn't bad, and it might just be Bledsoe having a bad game or two.  It's very clear that BD is a vastly superior passer, and he's gaining momentum at putting Oklahoma, Indiana, and Texas to work.  (Can we easily identify every player by state? Figure that one out, fair weather Clip follower BP!)  It's not easy to figure out a rotation and be sensitive to the rising and falling of mercurial players.  VDN has a tough job and he's doing pretty well, the best he can.  He might just lengthen the leash on BD just a little bit, that's all.

Aminu is Georgia, Bledsoe is Alabama, and Kaman is of course Michigan.  Butler is Philly or Pennsylvania.  Randy Foye is New Jersey and Brian Cook is Illinois.  BD and Craig Smith are local.  Diogu was born in New York and went to high school in Texas.  Who am I missing? 

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