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Bobcats 108 - Clippers 103

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Not having seen the game, I don't feel like I have anything overly salient to say.  It's very difficult to do decent analysis based on a radio broadcast or the play-by-play in the box score.  You can't see matchups, you don't know what the defense is doing with the double team, etc.  For instance, why did Kaman have a strong first quarter, and then disappear?  Do we credit a defensive adjustment by Sam Vincent?  Was it a great individual effort by Emeka Okafor or Ryan Hollins?  Did Chris get tired and fade?  Or did Mr. Flippy replace Kaman after the first quarter?  I don't know.

Still, why let something as minor as an absence of data keep me from writing 1000 words or so, right?

Jonathan Abrams in the LA Times points out the trend of fading in the second half.  

Their second-half troubles have been marked and defined this season, but the loss to the Bobcats, their first in four games here, brought it streaming to the surface.

Well, yes and no.  Losses to Milwaukee, Miami and now Charlotte were all direct results of horrendous third quarters, and all three straight out of the locker room (MIL 12-3 in first 6 minutes, MIA 14-0 in 5 minutes, CHA 13-3 in 5 minutes).  But the Pacers game was marked by a catastrophic first quarter.  Against the Hornets and the Sonics it was the second.  Meanwhile, in the win against the Kings, it was the second half where the Clippers dominated.  The better team is usually going to take control at the end (i.e. the Rockets game), but I wouldn't call this so much a trend of second half collapses as a trend of insurmountably bad quarters of basketball, that can occur at any time.  But that's just me.

To be sure, in this one it was the third.  And while it's certainly not acceptable to allow Charlotte to score 36 points in any quarter, the collapse was actually the result of complete futility and carelessness on the offensive end, the real culprit in most of the losses.  After a Tim Thomas 3 stretched the LA lead to 13, the next 7 possessions went like this (taken directly from the play-by-play):

10:29    Chris Kaman misses layup
9:48    Tim Thomas lost ball (Emeka Okafor steals)
9:22    Primoz Brezec blocks Chris Kaman's two point shot
8:49    Jason Richardson blocks Chris Kaman's layup
8:25    Brevin Knight bad pass (Raymond Felton steals)
7:56    Brevin Knight offensive foul (Primoz Brezec draws the foul)
7:18    Chris Kaman misses 11-foot jumper

That's Kaman 0 for 4 (including two layups and Richardson's 11th block of the season and Brezec' 4th block of the season), the rest of the team 0 for 0, and 3 turnovers.  In 4 minutes.  And a resultant 11-0 run that cut a 13 point lead to 2.

In the quarter, the Clippers committed half of their 14 turnovers and Kaman finished 1 for 6, his only make being a tip in.  He got three shots blocked, and had zero assists.  Which means that the team got nothing positive from running the offense through Kaman in the third quarter, which is too much for the Generic Clippers to overcome.  As for allowing 36 points - turnovers, blocks and misses tend to result in easy baskets for the opposition.  Fix the offense, the defense improves.

Not having seen it, I can't say for certain that Mr. Flippy came out of the locker room at half time.  But MDsr, who tends to talk about Kaman's missed layups a LOT less than I do, had this to say:

He had a couple opportunities early to attack the rim and could have maybe dunked the ball or gone stronger than he did. But it's an aberration as opposed to the norm for him.

Sounds like Mr. Flippy to me.  And while I think MDsr was referring to his overall sub-par performance as the aberration, his tendency to finish around the basket with trepidation and not authority is absolutely the norm.

By the way, sub-par Kaman still had 17 points and 13 rebounds.  The guy must be pretty damn good if the coach and the blogger are bitching about him after his 17th double-double in 21 games.  He did not have a single blocked shot after averaging almost 4 per game in his last 7 - perhaps and indication of fatigue or a lack of aggressiveness.

Fatigue might of course be a factor in all of this.  The last time the Clippers played the second game of a back to back, Kaman faded in the second half (last Wednesday in Seattle, 15 points and 10 boards in the first half, 4 and 4 in the second half).  Last night in Charlotte?  10 points and 9 boards in the first half (most of those in the first quarter), 7 and 4 in the second.  It's hard to find fault with playing Kaman so many minutes - the drop off to Paul Davis or Aaron Williams is significant.

But why did Tim Thomas play 39 minutes last night?  And why did Cuttino Mobley play 44?  (FORTY-FOUR!)  Was it because they had such hot shooting hands?  Um, that would be no.  Neither shot over 30% - Thomas finished 5 for 17 while Mobley was 3 for 10.  Worse still, Thomas started the game 0 for 6, including 0 for 4 on first quarter threes.  To top it all off, Thomas admitted to being tired and flat:

I can't speak for everyone else. But today, I don't know what was going on. I was flat-out beat from the beginning of the game. At certain times, it hurt the team, but I don't know, overall, we just need to focus more on coming out of the gate at the second half and starting it better.

Yup, that's the guy you want on the floor for 39 minutes.  (Before someone points out that Thomas' plus/minus for this game was +18, I'll say, yes, I realize that.  But we've said before that plus/minus can be very misleading, and while I did not see this game, Tim Thomas has NEVER been the type of player who does the 'little things' that 'don't show up in the box score.'  Tim Thomas is what he is in the box score, and 16 points on 17 shots is not good.)

I realize that without Ross, MDsr's options at shooting guard were limited.  But 44+ minutes is extreme, even by Blanket standards.  The fact that he's 32, he's playing hurt, and he was ineffective last night (he was 1 for 6 when he took his first rest) just make it all the more strange.

The biggest shame is perhaps that the Clippers wasted a terrific offensive game by Dan Dickau.  We surmised after a 4 for 6 performance against the Nets that maybe his elbow was feeling better, and he followed up with 5 for 7, including 4 threes, against Charlotte for a season-high 16.  The Generic Clippers will always struggle to get enough scorers on the floor (especially right now with Cassell hurt).  The games where a Dickau or a Thornton or some other unexpected source produces are the games they have to win.  But while Maggette was effective on offense, inefficient games from Mobley, Thomas and Kaman were too much to overcome.

So instead of going to Memphis with a 5-5 road record, having won 3 of 4, with a little momentum, they go with the weight of having lost a winnable game.  With 12 of the 13 games after Memphis against teams with winning records, there may not be too many more of those in the near future.  Better take care of business against the Grizz, or it's going to be a very un-merry Christmas.