First thing's first, Golden State deserves plenty of credit. They're the most overlooked team in basketball and have hardly got any national press, if nothing else it'll be good to see them pick up some credit for their great season so far by beating the team that had the best record in basketball. Stephen Curry is an absolute offensive powerhouse, and he showed that tonight, patiently picking his spots to the tune of 31 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 6 threes on 11-16 shooting. Mike Smith mentioned that Curry has the best shot in basketball, and I wouldn't argue with that. Klay Thompson's shooting stroke isn't terribly far behind, and he also burned the Clips for 19 points. David Lee is perhaps the most under appreciated power forward in basketball despite averaging great stats, and another great night should further fuel substantial chatter of another All-Star berth for him. 24 points, 13 boards, and 7 assists for him. On top of all that, they have a great 1-2 punch off the bench between Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. This wasn't a bad team that beat the Clippers tonight. This is a very very good team and they don't even have Andrew Bogut back yet. Mark Jackson and the Warriors deserve a ton of credit not just for tonight, but for turning that franchise around this season. Kudos.
But on to the Clippers:
Last night the Clippers looked listless and careless against a Denver team that couldn't really pull away until midway through the third. Tonight the Clippers pulled within 2 during the 2nd quarter, but the team never looked in control, or ready to take over. They played one decent stretch of defense to pull within those 2 points, and they played some more decent defense during a stretch in the 3rd quarter to keep the lead hovering around 10, but the Clippers couldn't buy a basket all night. And that was as big of a problem as anything. The Clips missed 21 threes tonight and went 8-29. They shot an awful 29-80 from the field altogether. There was little to no ball movement, and plenty of more of what we saw last night: missed jumper after jumper. (Willie Green, everyone's favorite Clipper, shot a season high 10 times, converting twice.) Chris Paul played passively until late in the third when the Clippers needed him to establish himself much earlier in the game. Blake Griffin was nonexistent, and was very unsuccessful during any attempt to post up Carl Landry. The highlights of the night were Matt Barnes carrying the team early on by constantly running and cutting, and Jamal Crawford hitting more shots most of us don't want him to take. Craw hurt his left foot, and we can only imagine how much worse this game would've been without him.
So what's wrong with this Clipper team? Sure you could chalk up last night's disappointing loss as an inevitability after winning so many games in a row, but certainly getting blown out two nights in a row is inexcusable, right? Well, as we've seen, contenders have had worse consecutive losses this season.. Just as LeBron James. But this loss no doubt highlights some big flaws with the Clippers. While we've spent a lot of time concentrating on the good during the streak, let's take a look at some weaknesses that Golden State exposed tonight, some of which were highlighted on a recent fanpost poll.
-REBOUNDING. I can't stress this enough. Clips were outboarded 53-38 tonight. Why? Simply because, outside of Lamar Odom, our bigs rarely seem in place to actually get rebounds. DJ and Blake are constantly out-jumping people for their boards because they can out-jump virtually every person on the planet, but a savvy power forward like David Lee is busy getting position and outsmarting them for rebounds. This bothers me more than anything because our bigs, especially our starting bigs, have the capability to rebound with anyone in this league, they just seem to constantly forget fundamentals and have the urge to jump at boards as soon as they come off the rim. DJ especially.
-Perimeter Defense. Another big problem, and a team with a Thompson/Curry backcourt was sure to expose it to the league. Thompson and Curry went 11-17 from three alone, and while some of those can be contributed to great shooters making some tough shots, there were quite a few wide open looks from lazy coverage. Shooters need to be covered, and contenders like the Spurs and Heat are loaded with shooters that will burn the Clips, let alone a team like Golden State.
-Free Throw Shooting. Wasn't the worst tonight, but this is obviously a huge issue. There's really not much to say about it though. Bob Thate seems to be rubbing off on Griffin more and more as the season progresses, so that's encouraging. Our lack of free throw consistency from our bigs will remain a point of concern all season and into the postseason.
-Less Iso, More Movement. There was a point in this game where Griffin was just in the post against Landry and the Clips repeatedly gave him the ball down low, despite the fact that there was little indication that it was a point of strength in the Clipper gameplan. Mike Smith even mentioned that it felt like 2 seasons ago when it was just shovel it into Blake and hope he can do something. From what I can remember we got Chris Paul since then, and he's suppose to be pretty good. I can understand some Iso Craw Ball from Jamal when plays disintegrate with the second unit, but as far as I'm concerned when Paul is in the game, the offense should constantly be running through him and there should always be some form of ball movement whether it's from Vinny's designated screen-roll or elsewhere. The lack of ball movement kills the offense and gets the team into bad habits, I don't mind missed jumpers if they're wide open and good shots.
-Rotations. It might not seem like an issue now, but Vinny needs to sharpen his rotations a bit. Against the mediocrity of the league, he can do his general 5 in 5 out then Craw/Barnes in for Green/Butler to end games. Our bench will rack up awesome +/- stats just because they're generally more talented than most benches. But the team should start evening things out a bit to maximize what we have as the competition improves, as it will with teams like the Dubs in the playoffs. While our second unit is awesome defensively, arguably better than our first unit on D, it would help to have another scorer/playmaker out there to stop the team from just being Craw Ball when Crawford isn't feeling it. A lot of help will come when Lamar gains some confidence offensively, but having a Blake or a Paul to balance that lineup a bit would be great. I'm also about done with Ronny Turiaf, despite his nonstop energy. Turiaf is our worst free throw shooter (impressive in itself) and cannot finish at the rim. As Odom continues to shape up, a 3 man rotation with very minimal Turiaf would be ideal. It would be nice to have Blake out there some with the second unit to help spread the offensive load, maybe pulling Blake along with Green so he can come back to help the second unit early in the second quarter.. Sharpening the rotation might seem like even less of an issue when we get deeper with Billups and Hill returning, but it'll become more of a concern as the playoffs come closer. Who knows if Vinny can handle this.
These are some flaws the team has, but the sky isn't falling. We still have the best floor general in basketball, a rapidly improving young star power forward, arguably the best bench in basketball, and most everyone is very comfortable in their roles and with each other. But sometimes you need to look at what you need to be doing better rather than what's good, and losses like this will make you think twice before the next opponent.
So we indeed have a new streak on our hands. Except we'll all be excited to break this one against.. oh shoot. Can anyone tell me who we're playing on Friday?
For the Warriors perspective, check out Golden State of Mind.
|Final - 1.2.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||24||25||15||30||94|
|Golden State Warriors||33||29||20||33||115|