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Sonics 77 - Clippers 75

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In the rematch, the Sonics were playing without Ray Allen, and the Clippers were playing without Sam Cassell.  Given that the Sonics can't possibly win without their best player, and given that the Clippers can't possibly win with Daniel Ewing and Will Conroy as their only point guards, it presented a bit of a logistical problem.  

The Clippers committed 13 first half turnovers and Elton Brand missed his only first half shot, and yet by some miracle they were only behind by 7 points.  It was almost equally amazing that correcting those two problems at halftime (one second half turnover, Brand 6 for 9) didn't produce a win against a Sonics offense that consisted of Rashard Lewis and offensive rebounds.  

Neither team shot well - the Clippers were a tick over 40% and the Sonics were 38.6%.  Brand, Lewis, Chris Kaman and Nick Collison were the only players on either roster who shot over 50%, and the Sonics may have won the game simply by generating almost twice as many shots for Lewis (19) as the Clippers could create for Brand (10).  Lewis took at least 7 more shots than any other Seattle player.  By contrast, 3 other Clippers took as many or more shots than Brand.  Obviously EB was facing double teams all game, and it's easier to double team Brand in the post than Lewis on the wing, but it's inexcusable that Elton had only one first half shot.  This is Seattle we're talking about - this is one of the worst defensive teams in the league.  You simply can't let them take you out of your offense that easily.

The Clippers' point guard situation definitely played a big role in their offensive futility.  Stealing a page from Kevin at ClipperBlog, one key fourth quarter possession pretty much sums it up.

As we pass the 2 minute mark, down two, the Clippers get a defensive stop and the rebound giving them a chance to tie the game.  (They actually had to make two stops since they gave up an offensive rebound in between, but that's another story.)  

  • Kaman secures the rebound with 1:38 on the game clock.

  • Ewing brings the ball upcourt against pressure from Ridnour (Ewing against pressure is never a relaxing time for Clipper fans).  He crosses the time line at 1:31, beating the 8 count by a full second!  Phew.

  • Ewing dribbles above the circle as the Clippers set their play.  At 1:26 (12 on the shot clock), Maggette pops on the left wing.  He doesn't receive the pass.

  • At 1:23, Mobley pops on the right wing and receives the pass.  So, there are now 9 seconds on the shot clock, and the Clippers have made THEIR FIRST PASS of the possession.  They aren't even into their set - they're now in POSITION to get into their set.  It took 15 seconds to get here.

  • The play appears to be for Kaman on the block, but Wilcox denies the first pass and Mobley appears to lose interest in making that pass.  Cat holds the ball, and Kaman comes up to set a screen for him.

  • Meanwhile, Brand has come to the free throw line to set a back screen on Ridnour, but Ewing is out of the picture, between the circle and half court.

  • At 1:20 (6), Mobley begins to dribble away from the Kaman pick.  At this point, with Kaman setting the screen for Mobley, and Brand setting the back pick at the line, all 5 Clippers are above the free throw line, and with neither Ewing nor Maggette moving to the weakside after Brand came up, all 5 are on the strong side as well.  This is not easy to do, but somehow, the Clippers manage it.

  • The Mobley dribble is purposeless, meandering.  He doesn't even seem to know that we are now down to 4 on the shot clock.  Brand comes up to set a screen with 2 on the clock, and Mobley heaves a desperation 3 with 1 on the clock.

So not only is it an atrocious shot, there is not a single Clipper within 20 feet of the basket to go after an offensive rebound.  Sometimes on a broken play, that last second heave that draws iron is the best you can hope for, and your bigs are in position to get a rebound.  Not this time.  5 Sonics surround the ball and we're going the other way.

It was one of the ugliest possessions you would ever want to see.  Nothing, and I mean NO EFFIN THING was right about it.  And you can't blame the whole thing on Ewing.  Sure, the first pass needs to happen quicker than 15 seconds into the shot clock, but the other four Clippers need to get themselves into the set.  MDsr is calling the play from the bench, and they all hear him.  It's not like they should have to wait for Ewing to tell them what to do.  

You can't even say 'great defense' on the Seattle side.  Basically, Ridnour pressured the ball some and Wilcox denied one pass.  Other than that, no one was even required to play defense.  I suppose it was better defense than if they had all stood at halfcourt, but mostly they were breathing in the general vicinity of their assignment.  You have to face some form of offense before you can be said to have played good defense.

If this is the possession you come up with at 1:38 of a two point game, you do not deserve to win.

On a similar note, if you can't win the season series with the Sonics, you probably don't deserve to make the playoffs.