That was embarrassing. I'm embarrassed.
There were a combination of factors that conspired to create this situation, to be sure, something of a perfect storm if you will. On Monday morning the Clippers roster included six centers and power forwards: Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, DeAndre Jordan, Cheikh Samb, Zach Randolph and Brian Skinner. By the end of the first quarter Tuesday night, only DeAndre Jordan was available from that list. Samb was waived Monday, Kaman missed his 39th straight game, Camby missed the game with an ear infection and Skinner missed the game with a sore Achilles tendon - so the Clippers started with Randolph at center (against Shaquille O'Neal) and Al Thornton at power forward (against Amare Stoudemire). When Randolph was ejected late in the first quarter for stupidly throwing a punch at Louis Amundson, the Clippers were down to a 20 year old rookie in the big positions. So mark this down as another game where the 'glut of quality bigs' on the Clipper roster did not turn out to be a problem.
The other big factor was the fact that the Suns were playing their first game for a new head coach who is very popular with the team. And they were returning to a style that most, if not all, of them love. They were pumped up and ready to run. And the Clippers were ready to watch them.
Even before Randolph was chased, it was obvious that this was not going to end well. On the first possession of the game, Randolph made almost no attempt to beat Shaq to the block on a cross screen, and to make matters worse, Thornton gave him a touch foul. Easy layup, and one. The next time down, Thornton fell completely asleep, Stoudemire slipped the screen, dunk. Next time down, Barbosa coast to coast for a layup. Three possessions, three layups, against not even the semblance of defense. So if Randolph had remained in the game, the Clippers might have been able to score a little more, and they might not have been outrebounded quite so badly (58 to 21, a really shocking number) - but they were still going to lose, and lose big.
In fact, I'm not completely convinced it wouldn't have been just as bad. Randolph's defense is never good, but tonight it wasn't even up to his usual poor standard. On an Amundson/Nash pick and roll, he switched onto Nash so weakly that Nash just dribbled past him and kept going without breaking stride - so now Zach was completely out of the play, not guarding Amundson, and not deterring Nash. Nash had his choice of what to do, of course choosing to assist Amundson on the uncontested dunk.
It's ironic and frustrating to realize that for so long we were pointing to the All Star break as the time when the team would FINALLY be back to full strength. We were hopeful that these last 29 games would represent a new start for the team, a chance to prove that they could compete. Instead, Kaman is still out, and may never wear a Clippers uniform again if all the rumors are true, the team was massively short-handed in the front court, and they didn't compete at all, instead suffering their worst defeat of the season (and let's face it, there have been some bad ones). In fact, only a late barrage of three pointers by the scrubs averted the worst defeat in franchise history. That record stands at 50, and the Clippers trailed by 52 late in the game.
Not much more to say. We'll run it back tomorrow night. So it's the final 28 games in which we'll look for progress. Of course, Randolph will probably miss that one as well, so the Clippers will again be without all of their top big men in all likelihood. So make that the final 27 games, beginning Sunday at Portland.
- Eric Gordon was minus 45 in 36 minutes tonight. MINUS FORTY FIVE! And he was the Clippers best player! He finished with 24 points on 16 shots. He remains a very efficient scorer. He'd be even more efficient if he would stop missing easy ones around the basket, which he seems to do about once a game.
- Al Thornton - 1 rebound in 26 minutes. Baron Davis - 1 rebound in 24 minutes. Eric Gordon - 0 rebounds in 36 minutes. Rebounding is hustle and heart, citizens. This is not good.
- Alex Acker scored 10 points in 12 minutes. (He also had 2 rebounds.) He had 9 total points in 5 games in 05-06. He had 9 total points in 7 games this season before tonight. He had more points tonight that he'd previously scored in any NBA season. It would be news if he were suddenly a great three point shooter, but he can certainly score some. And by the way, he was by FAR Pepperdine's best rebounder from his point guard position his senior year.
- DeAndre Jordan has just so very little idea of how to play post defense. He's a terrific athlete and has great size and length. But he's got a LOT to learn.
- Mardy Collins returned from his calf muscle injury, which was good to see. But he looked rusty to me, turning the ball over twice in his limited real minutes on the floor.
- Clipper fans now stand to lose Zach Randolph for two games thanks to Louis Amundson, after losing him for 19 games in December and January courtesy of Jake Voskuhl. Words cannot describe how lame that is.
- The Clippers gave up 81 first half points, and 118 through three quarters. The Suns ran off quarters of 41, 40 and 37. I guess Baron Davis was right - they really don't pride themselves on their defense.