The Clippers are one of the most fortunate teams in the league. There are few players that command a double team from opposing defenses and the Clippers have two such players. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin routinely find themselves in situations where the opposing team is throwing two defenders at them. So how are the Clippers not capitalizing on this? Chris Paul is arguably the best play-maker in the league and Blake Griffin one of the best passers while doubled on the block, so how are other teams able to defend this? Simple. The Clippers pass up open shots.
When Griffin receives a pass in the low post the opposing defense is watching him, waiting for the right moment to double team him. More often than not, a small guard is sagging off his defender patiently waiting for Blake to make his move. And here is where everything falls apart for the Clippers. Every time that defensive player sags off his man, the defense has been broken. The most effective play is often the simplest, to shoot the 3 and make that defender pay for cheating. This is where Chancey Billups (and to some extent Randy Foye) thrived last season. There was no hesitation to shoot the ball and the other team was forced to adjust. So far this season, this hasn't happened.
So how does this lead to bad offensive possessions for the Clippers? When you pass up the open shot you are left with two other options: drive the lane or swing the ball. If you drive to the basket you have just given the defense what it wanted. The center of the floor is already congested by the double team and the cheating defender is already in position to recover in case of a drive. So let's say we go with option 2. Well the only place to swing the ball is back to the top (since nobody flashes to the high post.) At this point you have effectively reset your offense, forced no adjustments from the defense, and wasted 10-14 seconds of the shot clock. Usually this is where the Clippers resort to hero ball by Crawford or Paul, or they run a high screen and roll, which leads to...
The Chris Paul conundrum. Chris rarely uses a screen to get himself an open shot. Granted sometimes our screens are terrible, but Chris passes up 5-10 open shots a game off the screen and roll. Passing up these shots forces little adjustment from the defense and gives the defense what it wants. I'm not going to go into all the scenario's of a Pick and Roll, but one of them is to shoot the ball coming around the screen, and eliminating this option yourself just makes it easier for the defense.I understand that Chris wants to get his team mates going, but sometimes the best way to get them open is to force the other team to guard you.
So what has the difference been these past 3 losing-games compared to our 6-game win streak? Bail-outs. Jamal Crawford had been red hot during that 6 game stretch. Remember all those amazing plays Jamal made? Did you stop to realize afterwards that many of them occurred on broken offensive plays? It's so easy to get caught up in the spectacular talent Crawford and Paul are capable of, but how often do you ask why it was necessary? The offensive problems have always been there, you just tend not to notice them when the shots are falling. Add together an off night from Chris Paul and a back down to earth shooting percentage from Crawford and you get 3 losses.
My last bit of gripe (thank you for bearing with me) is the fact that Blake doesn't fill space on P&R and routinely passes up 15-18 footers in the middle of the floor, but that will come with maturity. I'm still very optimistic the Clippers will figure these problems out and we will see less dependency on Crawford and Paul to make bail-out plays. I look forward to the return of Chauncey and Grant as both are play makers and will help with some of our offensive deficiencies. Every team is going to have growing pains and the Clippers may have more than most. The amount of depth we possess means our puzzle is larger and more complex, and it will take more time and patience to see it completed. Stay patient Clipper Nation, a great basketball team is right around the corner.