I don't know what was more painful. Watching the Clippers meander through a loss to a wildly mediocre Phoenix Suns team, or having to listen to Charles Barkley for over two hours. Actually I do know, and it was Barkley, and it wasn't even close. But seeing the Clippers lose their third game in a row was problematic as well.
Playing without Chris Paul, the Clippers really needed Blake Griffin to have a big game. Instead, he took just nine shots -- only the second time this season he's played over 30 minutes but taken fewer than 10 shots. It follows that the Clippers lost both of those games.
With Paul on the bench wearing a suit and Griffin oddly passive, the Clippers still would have been fine if some of their role players had stepped up, but other than Jamal Crawford, who had a team-high 21 on 8-13 shooting, it just didn't happen. At all. Lamar Odom was 2-11, Grant Hill was 1-8, Willie Green was 1-5, Matt Barnes was 4-11. It all added up to a team shooting percentage less than 40%. You have to make shots to win games, and shooting percentage is probably the single best indicator of success or failure for the Clippers this season. Including tonight in Phoenix, the Clippers, who are fourth overall in team field goal percentage this season, have now shot 43% or worse in nine games this season. They are 2-7 in those five games, leaving them with a record of 30-5 in games when the shoot better than 43%. It's not really that complex a game when you get down to it -- you need to put the ball in the basket if you want to win.
Barkley of course used the Clippers struggles in this game as convenient confirmation bias of all the shortcomings in the team he's been telling us about all season. Never mind that they were missing their best player. Never mind that they had a bad game. Nope, he's "not on the Clippers band wagon" because "Blake Griffin doesn't impose his will" and "the Clippers struggle in the half court" and "there's a lot of pressure on Chris Paul to create shots."
The flaws in Barkley's thinking (and that of Reggie Miller too for that matter) are easy to illustrate through a different ongoing discussion from this game. Barkley and Miller repeatedly lamented what a shame it was that Jamal Crawford didn't make the All Star team. They pointed out how well he's played, how the Clippers are winning, and from that drew the conclusion that he should have made the team. They also felt that Stephen Curry was snubbed and should have made the team. Here's what they didn't say: who should have been left off to make room for Crawford and Curry. All Star selections don't exist in a vacuum. There is a selection process and there a finite number of All Star roster spots. So it's meaningless to say that Crawford should have made the team without saying who should not have made it. You absolutely know that these guys would be saying the exact same thing about James Harden if he'd been left off the team. I said it on Tuesday: Jamal's been terrific, but he doesn't make the cut for a 12 man All Star roster. He might make a 15 man All Star team, but you can't justify him in the top 12.
And just as All Star selections don't exist in a vacuum, playoff teams don't exist in a vacuum. Do the Clippers have flaws? Hell yeah they do. But other teams have flaws as well. Listening to Barkley complain about the lack of inside scoring from the Clippers bigs while constantly saying that Oklahoma City is the best team is hilarious. Apparently Sir Charles is a big fan of Kendrick Perkins' inside game. Complaining that Blake Griffin doesn't get enough rebounds while raving about the Grizzlies is equally droll, when Marc Gasol is one of the worst rebounding bigs in the NBA. Is there a lot of pressure on Chris Paul to create shots? Sure. Just like there's a lot of pressure on Kevin Durant to do so for OKC. You can't say Crawford deserves to be an All Star without saying who you'd leave off, and you can't nitpick the Clippers flaws while ignoring those of the other contenders. It doesn't work that way.
All this to say, I'm glad that game is over. It was excruciating on many levels. The Clippers are obviously going to have to play better in Portland on Saturday to right their ship. This was clearly an off game -- the shooting percentage tells you all you need to know. We know that we'll be listening to Ralph and Mike again on Saturday, so that solves one of the issues from this game. The Clippers just need to play better to solve the other issue.
For the Phoenix perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.