When you play a team that pressures the ball, you have to make them pay by getting easy buckets. If they press, you have to beat the press and convert with your numbers advantage. If they overplay the passing lane, you go back door and get a layup. If they front, you lob over the top. These are not things the Clippers do well. The players are among the less intuitive in the NBA, and the coaching does not emphasize improvisation. As a result, the Sixers pressure creates a win-win. Sometimes it results in a turnover - and even when it doesn't, the Clippers don't make them pay, but rather stubbornly insist on getting into their offense, only now it's with 10 seconds or fewer left on the shot clock. The Clippers did not run a coherent set all game - not once.
Analyzing these generic Clipper games becomes completely pointless on some level. Outrebounded by 20 against the Wizards? What to do, what to do? If only we could find a top 10 career NBA rebounder somewhere who we could insert into the game. As it happens, in this game the difference maker is not Elton Brand, but rather Shaun Livingston. It's one thing to press and double team Brevin Knight and Dan Dickau. But Livingston's handle, and importantly his size, would easily pick apart this type of defense.
But without Brand and Livingston (and Tim Thomas), there was nothing but bad news in this game. Among the low-lights.
- After a season-low 4 points in the first meeting with the Sixers, Chris Kaman posted a season low 5 rebounds in this one. But what's really disconcerting is that he looks like the Kaman of last season. He's distracted, he's jumpy, he's all over the place. In November and December, every defensive rebound was his. Anything he could get to, he got to it. But lately, even when he's in the best position for a rebound he often comes away empty. In this game he got only tow defensive boards in 27 minutes. That just wasn't happening before. And it's not acceptable.
- It was a record tying game for Al Thornton - no Clipper has ever had more than his 10 turnovers in single game. Only a blown call kept Al from getting the record all to himself with 11. Putting your head down and going one on one is a bad idea against a team that is doing a good job on help defense. The Sixers always had a defender in his path, or someone coming from the blind side. He's got to do a better job of recognizing the situation and getting the ball to the open man. That will come with time - but today was a really tough lesson.
- Dan Dickau has apparently forgotten how to shoot. He's now made 15 of his last 50 shots (30%) after going 0 for 4 in this game. Wasn't he supposed to be the point guard who could score? None of his shots tonight were even close.