The Clippers left Los Angeles last Monday for a seven game road trip through the frigid East in December. And so far the only thing colder than the weather outside has been the Clippers shooters. The Clippers opened the trip with a loss in Atlanta in which they shot 4-19 from deep -- little did we know that we'd be looking up at that shooting percentage just a few days later.
Saturday night in Cleveland the Clippers took a season-high 35 three pointers -- their second highest total of three pointers on the season. They went 15-38 in a shootout with the Rockets, but The Clippers MISSED as many threes in Cleveland as they have TAKEN in any other game this season.
In three games on the road trip, the Clippers have been completely miserable on offense for five halves -- other than the second half against the Grizzlies in Memphis Thursday, the team has played nothing but ugly, ugly basketball. The fact that all of this terrible shooting has occurred since J.J. Redick went down with a wrist injury is both understandable -- and disconcerting. I mean, it's all well and good that there's a reason the Clippers have been bad -- but Redick isn't walking through that door this month nor probably next month, so if this is just the new normal, the team is in BIG trouble.
Why the Clippers are taking 35 three pointers in a game is worth asking as well. Blake Griffin was just 3-12 in the game, his worst outing of the season. The tag team of Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao keeping him under wraps all night. And tag team is a fairly apt descriptor as there was definitely some wrestling going on. The best way to defend Griffin is to body him, to be physical and lean on him constantly, and that's what Thompson and Varejao did -- if the referees allow it, the Griffin is in trouble, until and unless he figures out how to combat the tactic.
In the fourth quarter, the wrestling match briefly turned into a cage match. As Griffin rolled down the lane, Varejao threw his shoulder into Griffin's chin. The normally pretty docile Griffin didn't like it a bit, and gave Varejao a shove -- a shove which must have been a lot harder than it looked, given how far Varejao went flying (Brazillians aren't known for embellishing contact at all, are they?) Griffin wasn't down either -- he's usually a "walk away" kind of guy, but this time he stepped right to the supine Varejao forcing teammates from both sides to intervene. The incident ended with basically nothing -- double technicals, i.e. nothing -- and while it would have been great if it had fired up the Clippers, it really didn't change anything.
So Griffin was more or less a non-factor. Chris Paul on the other hand was 4-12 on the game -- 1-6 from deep -- and Jamal Crawford was 5-19. With Paul, Crawford and Griffin unable to generate anything going towards the basket, all the Clippers had left was shooting threes. They tried it -- it didn't work.
And the news just keeps getting worse for the Clippers too. Redick is out, as is Matt Barnes, a key reserve and probably the team's best small forward. During the second half in Cleveland, rookie Reggie Bullock turned his ankle and left the game. If Bullock is out for a while (and given the way he went down and his reaction, I have a feeling he will be) suddenly the Clippers are down to Jared Dudley as their only small forward -- and Dudley is far from 100 percent himself.
A few minutes after Bullock went out, center DeAndre Jordan pulled up with a strained arch. Jordan left for a time, then re-entered the game briefly, and clearly wanted to come back in again. We'll see if this injury is serious enough to cause him to miss time -- but if Jordan is out, the Clippers would be down two starters and both reserve small forwards, which will be extremely difficult to overcome.
Given the basic statistical outline of this game -- the Clippers shot a season-low 32% from the field and were outrebounded by 15, 60-45, including a six rebound deficit on the offensive glass -- it's kind of difficult to believe that they were within three points in the final minute. Honestly, I'm at a loss to understand how that happened. You simply don't win games when you shoot 32% -- and you usually don't have any chance at all.
The bottom line is that on a trip where we were hopeful that the Clippers might run off a nice string of wins against weak competition, instead the Clippers are 1-2, with the only win coming against an injured and pretty horrible Grizzlies team. Upcoming stops in Philadelphia and Boston, Brooklyn and Washington are all very winnable -- but they're obviously quite loseable as well, given the current situation.
The Clippers obviously miss Redick more than we suspected they might -- but they need to figure out how to compensate for his absence quickly, or they're going to find themselves in a very deep hole in the Western Conference playoff race long before J.J. ever returns to the lineup.