The game recap for the Clippers 125-117 win over the Thunder was already north of 1200 words and I still had a few more things to say. I figured I'd get the basic recap out there and then put some more cantankerous stuff in a separate post.
The Foster Follies
I don't remember having a problem with referee Scott Foster per se in the past, but man was he noticeable in a very bad way in this game. The Clippers won a close game on the road, despite picking up three technical fouls and getting a few very strange calls along the way, almost always coming from Foster.
The first T was on coach Doc Rivers, and although he went on to say a bit more, the courtside microphones actually picked up exactly what he said directly before he was T'd up by Foster.
Doc: "They just did the same thing to Jamal [Crawford]. Come on Scott. Come on."
What? Since when is that worthy of a technical foul? What exactly is a head coach allowed to say if he's not allowed to say that? Rivers was understandably even hotter after that, and Foster had to come over to tell him to sit down: Doc might well have been ejected had associate head coach Alvin Gentry not intervened to get the coach to back off, though Rivers did drop a juicy F bomb as he was walking away.
The three second violation Foster called on Griffin in the final three minutes would have been the play of the game had the Clippers not come back to win. With Fisher defending Griffin in the post and having already committed about five separate fouls on the play, Griffin finally received an entry pass and Foster finally blew his whistle. The broadcast went to commercial as Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown announced the foul on Fisher saying that Griffin would be at the line after the time out. Instead, it was Thunder ball as Foster had instead called a three second violation, much to the bemusement and bewilderment of the announcers. The fact is that Griffin did have one foot in the lane for more than three seconds (as Fisher was shoving him with both hands) and that by the letter of the law it was a three second violation (as indeed it was multiple fouls on Fisher by the letter of the law). The fact that Blake was actually COMPLETELY OUT of the key by the time he caught the pass and Foster blew the whistle just contributed to the general surrealism.
Perhaps my favorite Foster moment was of relatively minor impact, but falls into my peeve category of officials making calls they have no business making because they don't have the proper angle. On a third quarter Clippers possession, Matt Barnes took a fairly desperate shot that grazed the rim, and then dug out the offensive rebound. The shot clock reset, and Foster, standing on the exactly opposite side of the floor from where the ball had hit the rim, stopped play to verify that the reset was justified. The other members of the crew looked at him like he had two heads -- well, yeah, Scott, it hit the rim, we were standing right here looking at it and while you were over in BFE blowing your whistle. DeAndre Jordan was alone in the paint when Foster whistled the play dead, and I'm not saying that Barnes was going to get him the ball, but I am saying the Clippers would much have preferred attacking a scrambled OKC defense than inbounding from the sideline against a set D.
I'm not sure if Foster thought OKC might still have a chance in the final seconds or if he just wanted the attention of everyone in the building one last time, but the offensive foul he called on Crawford at the end was just a joke. Fisher was moving and took the contact on the outside of his left shoulder -- that's an obvious block, not to mention that Fisher was more or less giving a foul there just to stop the clock. Foster was still feeling pretty pissed off at the Clippers, for whatever reason, when he made that call.
Jared Dudley approaches Ryan Gomes territory
It wasn't that long ago that the Clippers had a player who was supposed to be a pretty good shooter and a pretty good defender, a glue guy who would provide solid if unspectacular play from the starting small forward position. But for some reason in L.A. he couldn't shoot at all, and then it turned out he wasn't actually a very good defender, couldn't rebound a bit, and generally did little or nothing to help the team. Glue guys do the little things even if they aren't great scorers -- so what do you call a non-scorer who can't do any of the little things? I'd like to coin the term, the goo guy. Rather than holding things together, they just gum up the works.
Ryan Gomes started 62 of 76 games during his first season in L.A. He struggled shooting the ball, and by the second half of his second season with the Clippers he never got off the bench. By that second season his confidence was so far gone that he more or less refused to shoot, even when he was wide open. The Clippers eventually requested amnesty waivers on him, and he's played 34 minutes of NBA basketball since March of 2012.
Jared Dudley's recent performances are beginning to remind me more and more of Gomes. He's not scoring much (he hasn't been in double figures in over a month, 18 straight games) but almost more disconcerting, he's not even shooting. He's 7-35 from three point range since January 22, and he just looks like a player with zero confidence. He went to the free throw line at the start of the fourth quarter with a chance to stem the tide of a Thunder run that was 13-4 at the time and missed a pair. I'm about ready to see all of his minutes go to Reggie Bullock, who at least played aggressive defense and wasn't afraid to shoot the ball today (though he was 0-4). Or is it time to take a look at Ronnie Brewer?
Scott Brooks plays Hack-the-DJ and loses
Obviously you all know how I feel about intentionally fouling as a basketball strategy. I've advocated for a rule change for the good of the game to keep stupid head coaches from inflicting this pain on the fans. A national TV contest that the rest of the time featured some of the most wide open and fun attacking basketball of the season, for a few terrible moments in the second quarter was stuck in the always scintillating quagmire of watching the second worst free throw shooter in the NBA shoot free throws.
Coaches don't seem to have figured out that this is a loser as strategies go. But what's most amazing to me is that there are a handful of coaches who employ the strategy while they are in the lead. The one and only thing that intentionally fouling indisputably does is create more possessions. Any other perceived benefit of the strategy -- whether it limits the opponent to fewer total points, whether it disrupts the opponent's offensive rhythm, whether it disrupts the opponent's rhythm more than your own rhythm -- is open to debate. When you are behind, the strategy is at least having the affect of extending the game and giving you more chances to reduce the deficit. When your team is ahead, the idea is little more than voodoo, coaches saying to themselves "I have a feeling this is going to work."
Brooks ordered his players to begin fouling Jordan with a little less than five minutes remaining in the first half and the Thunder up four. At first the strategy seemed to work -- Jordan missed a pair and the Thunder scored, Jordan made one of two and the Thunder scored -- and suddenly it was a seven point lead. So huzzah for weaselly disregard for the spirit of the game!
Not so fast. The Clippers then proceeded to reel off 23 points in the final 4:15 of the half. Seems like maybe, perhaps, by telling his team NOT to play defense and to foul instead, his team stopped playing defense.
WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING?
Note to coaches: if it is your goal to keep your opponent from scoring points, encourage your team to play good defense. Telling them to do things other than playing good defense is counterproductive in the process of limiting opponent scoring.
I am surprised I am compelled to point that out, but there it is.
The icing on this hack-a-cake is that Russell Westbrook gave the first two intentional fouls on Jordan, and then when he picked up a third trying to defend Chris Paul he had to be removed for the final couple minutes of the half. Oh gee, you mean those intentional fouls count as personal fouls too? Well that's another disadvantage I guess. Who knew?
Brooks then had the audacity to lament his team's inability to defend without fouling during a halftime interview, according Lisa Salters' sideline report. ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME!? You gave up 19 free throws in the first half, Scotty? Well boo hoo. Nine of those free throws were taken by Jordan, and six of those were after intentional off the ball fouls! Given that you have an active strategy of giving free throws to Jordan, I'm not quite clear how 19 first half free throws is a problem.
Jordan finished the game a respectable 6-11 from the line including a crucial pair of makes in the fourth quarter. Good for him.