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Sonics 95 - Clippers 88

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This was a brutal game to watch.  With the exception of Kaman, it's hard to imagine the Clippers playing worse than they did in the first half.  And yet they were only down 8 at half time.  And each time you felt like the Clippers were going to make a run, something ridiculous would happen to quash it.  When the Clippers made 5 quick points to open the second half and cut the lead to three, Damien Wilkins made consecutive three pointers to push it out to 9 (largest of the game to that point).  The consecutive threes would have been bad enough... but they were wrapped around a blown layup by Kaman - one of those, all alone, no defender, dunk the damn ball specials.

Similarly, to open the fourth quarter, the Clippers got the start they needed if they were going to get back into the game.  Down 12, Dickau sank a three on the first possession, followed by Thornton blocking Collison underneath for a jump ball.  There were three seconds on the shot clock - even if the Clippers don't control the tap, the Sonics have basically no time to get a shot.  Indeed, Wilkins gathers in the tap and chucks the ball toward the basket... it is not even close, wide right and 3 feet too long... and it banks in for three points.

The Clippers were awful and did not deserve to win this game.  They had precious few legitimate scorers on the floor, and two of them (Thomas and Mobley) combined to shoot 4 for 24.  And one of the makes was a meaningless Mobley three after the game was out of reach.   But at the same time, it felt like a game that they weren't going to win.  Wilkins bank shot was not the only gift of the evening - Collison banked in an 18 footer straight away with 2 seconds left in the first quarter.  These shots don't count in a driveway game of H-O-R-S-E, but they count in the NBA.

Conversely, the Clippers literally could not make lay ups.  I've been lamenting the team's absence of offensive fire power given all of the injuries.  Well, in this game, they continually got good shots.  Shots that even this group should make.  And yet they did not.  

The Clippers were not good all night, but for one 5 minute stretch of the 2nd quarter, they were shockingly, jaw-droppingly, shake-your-head, scream-at-the-TV bad.  Just one bizarre, futile play after another.

  • 9:30 left in the quarter with Seattle holding a 23-21 lead, Kaman, who has 11 of the Clippers 21 points so far in 13 plus minutes, gets the ball against Johan Petro.  Now, Kaman has been torching Kurt Thomas, a terrific low post defender, all game.  Johan Petro has about as much chance of guarding Chris as I do.  Kaman goes right by him, and as he going up for his shot, Nick Collison grabs his wrist, which all three refs miss.  But no big deal, the ball bounces off the bottom of the rim, Kaman gets it back, and has an uncontested layup - which he misses.
  • 9:15 - Gelabale travels.
  • 9:05 - Kaman passes out of the post to a wide open Dickau for three - miss.
  • 8:45 - Durant gets the ball on the left side guarded by Cat.  Cat clearly wants to force him baseline, where the help is supposed to be.  He does, but there is no help as Kaman has his head turned (maybe Kaman's only defensive mistake in the game, I should add).  Layup.  21-25.
  • 8:30 - Al Thornton draws a foul on Wally Szczerbiak on a nice one-on-one up and under move.  He makes both free throws.  23-25.

    OK, now it gets really ugly.  During the free throws, the Clippers take Kaman out for his first rest of the game.  Remember, he played 41 minutes Tuesday night.  He has to rest some time.  Your five Clippers on the floor are Thomas, Patterson, Thornton, Mobley and Dickau.  The score is 23-25.

  • 8:06 - After an ugly possession, this lineup does about the only thing it can do - it forces a turnover and now they have a 3 on 1 break.  For some reason Mobley kicks ahead to Patterson instead of Dickau.  Patterson's transition game is limited to 1-0 breaks.  Introduce a defender (or a teammate for that matter) and he gets a little confused.  He throws an ill-advised pass that Durant knocks out of bounds.  3-on-1 breaks, for a unit that has very little hope of scoring... let's just say you need to convert those.
  • 8:03 - Inbounding with 21 seconds on the shot clock, Thomas gets an open three against the zone - the best shot you could hope for really - and misses.  The long rebound goes straight to Dickau, who wants to make a touch pass back out to Thomas.  Instead, the ball squirts out of his hands, one of several crispety-crunchity-butterfingery plays by little Dan during the game (did the ball get wet in the Seattle rain?)
  • 7:46 - Szczerbiak hits the open 15 footer in transition after the Dickau turnover.  23-27.
  • 7:27 - <sarcasm>My favorite Clipper play, iso Patterson on the post up.</sarcasm>  He uses his strength well to back down Jeff Green, gets right to the basket... and banks the ball off the backboard so hard that he misses everything.  Bank-air from 2 feet.
  • 7:23 - Thomas gets the offensive rebound, and goes back up with the strength and determination of a kitten.  Blocked by Collison.  FWIW, Collison was the best player for the Sonics tonight.  Lucky Clippers, he wasn't supposed to play, but at the last minute he was cleared.  Chris Wilcox spent the whole night in foul trouble, Collison got big minutes, and responded with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
  • 7:18 - Durant coast-to-coast after the block.  23-29.
  • 7:14 - Dickau turns the ball over in the back court.  Maggette checks into the game for Patterson.  Although Maggette has been terrible to this point in the game (1 for 5), he's desperately needed with Kaman out and Mobley useless.
  • 6:57 - Jeff Green (6'9") posts up Cat Mobley (6'4").  Bucket.  23-31.

    In 93 seconds without Kaman, the Sonics are on a 6-0 run.  And Seattle has been pretty terrible during those 93 seconds.  The six points were the result of two Dickau turnovers, and a missed layup/blocked shot that resulted in a layup going the other way.

    At this point, you're thinking, 'They have to bring Kaman back.'  But he's had 93 seconds of rest, and he played 41 minutes the night before!

  • 6:40 - Thornton makes a pretty good move against Green on the baseline, but can't finish, as Collison comes over to contest the layup and then rebounds the airball.
  • 6:32 - In transition, Green gets the ball under the basket all alone, but the ball slips out of his hand as he goes up for the jam.  It's not just the Clippers, I guess.  That should have stretched the lead to 10.
  • 6:22 - Dickau goes coast-to-coast but misses the layup.  Maggette gets the follow, a rare converted layup for the Clippers.  25-31.
  • 6:07 - Kaman is at the scorer's table, waiting to check in.  No rest for the weary.  Maggette denies the entry pass to Szczerbiak and knocks it away, Mobley picks up the loose ball, and goes the distance... and misses the layup.
  • 5:57 - Green travels.  Kaman checks in for Thornton on the dead ball.  He was out for 2:33.  The Clippers were outscored 6-2, as each team tried to one-up the other with ineptitude.  Every Seattle turnover has been trumped by a Clipper missed layup.
  • 5:44 - 13 seconds after checking in, Kaman gets an easy bucket.  The Seattle zone somehow left Earl Watson covering Kaman next to the basket, and Dickau found him.  Miraculously, the Clippers are within 4, 27-31.  
  • As an aside, Durant at 6'10" is playing on the top of Seattle's 3-2 zone.  Szczerbiak, 6'7" and never what you would call a banger, is left to defend the right block opposite Collison.  Ignoring the fact that Wally shouldn't be chasing Dickau into the LEFT corner from the right block, it tells you something about Durant's lack of strength at this point in his career that PJ would rather have Szczerbiak protecting the basket.

  • 5:29 - The most illustrative sequence of the night.  Dickau makes a good steal helping down on Durant.  Dickau is now in transition with only Watson to beat.  He makes a nice spin move, gets to the other side of the rim, and misses the layup.   Mobley has outhustled Durant to be the next on the scene, he gets the rebound, and misses the layup.  Collison gets the rebound, but Dickau again knocks the ball away.  He saves the ball from going out of bounds, but it goes to Watson.
  • 5:04 - Durant draws the foul on Mobley going to the basket.  Two free throws, 27-33 Sonics.
  • 4:58 - Maggette takes his eye off the pass and the ball slips through his hands.  Turnover, and then he fouls Wilkins.
  • 4:40 - Ross forces Durant into a miss.  For what it's worth, Ross did a far superior job on Durant than Mobley in this game.  To this point, Durant has six points, all scored while Ross was on the bench.  For all the talk of Durant, Seattle was much better tonight with Szczerbiak coming off screens than with the rookie going one-on-one.  The other players tend to stand around and watch Durant.
  • 4:17 - Maggette finds a seam in the zone, Knight finds him... and he loses the ball.  It's hard to tell what happened.  Did it get knocked away or did he just drop it?  It goes as a turnover in the scorebook.
  • 4:10 - In transition, Wilcox is called for the offensive foul running down Q on the pass-and-crash.  Clippers dodge another bullet as the Durant dunk is waved off.

There you have it, 5:20 of some of the worst basketball imaginable.  The sad thing is, the effort was there - the execution was just unthinkably bad.  During that time, by my count, the Clippers missed 8 layups.  They had another one blocked and Maggette also dropped the ball when he was in position for a layup.  A couple of the misses were contested to be certain.  But I've got four of them (including both of Mobley's) as flat misses, and frankly, you expect a bucket or at least a trip to the line from each and every one of them.  BTW, Ross missed an uncontested layup a couple minutes later in the quarter as well.

In addition to 8 missed layups, there were two misses of wide open three pointers from ostensibly good shooters.

And then there were the unforced turnovers.  Dickau dropped one rebound (it was not scored a rebound and a turnover officially, but that's what it amounted to) and also gave the ball up in the backcourt, while Maggette simply failed to catch one pass with no defender in sight.

Only the fact that Seattle was almost as bad during the sequence kept the Clippers within six.