So let's suppose, hypothetically, you're the coach of a basketball team that was expected to be competitive, but instead has lost 75% of its games. And let's further suppose that said team has suffered more than its share of injuries, and you (the coach) have said time and again that your paltry record is the fault of the injuries, and that if only, if only you had your full team, things would be different. In that situation, what would happen if this team, finally restored to full health, went out and lost in decisive fashion to an opponent missing 4 of their top 5 players? That would really throw a wrench into the old "We'd be really good were it not for all the injuries" argument, wouldn't it?
Or maybe the Clippers can only play well when BOTH teams are at full strength. Maybe that's it.
Going into the game in Detroit, we knew that Allen Iverson, Rep Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace were going to miss the game. After Rodney Stuckey came done with the flu (the ClipperSteve reverse mojo strikes again), the Pistons took the court in Auburn Hills without four out of their five double digit scorers. Their starting point guard was getting his first ever NBA start. The Pistons were no doubt lamenting the fact that they had sold Alex Acker - he would have come in handy for them with only two guards in uniform.
The Clippers built a 12 point first half lead over the seemingly outgunned Pistons. But as LA continued to miss easy basket after easy basket, I began to get a very bad feeling about the game. By halftime, the lead was down to 4. Five minutes into the second half, Detroit took the lead and never trailed again.
The story of the game was the Piston's ability to get the ball to a player who could make good things happen for them - and the Clippers total inability to do the same. On 14 consecutive Pistons possessions in the fourth quarter, with the Detroit lead down to 2 at one point, the Clippers got two stops - three, if you count the pair of free throws Jason Maxiell missed. And on almost every single one of those possessions, the Pistons offense consisted of a post up for Tayshaun Prince on the right block with the floor spread. The Clippers NEVER figured it out - the instant the double came, Prince found the open guy. If someone turned their head, Prince hit the cutter. If someone hedged, he found the shooter.
Tayshaun Prince's career high in assists prior to this game was 10. In the fourth quarter, he had 8 in less than 8 minutes. It was a masterful performance by Prince - and a pathetic display by the Clippers defense. There were no adjustments. None. If MDsr adjusted his boxers, I didn't notice it.
The Clippers, on the other hand, managed to get one shot in the first half for Eric Gordon. For the game, he made his first seven shots, finally missing a couple of threes late after the game was already out of reach. Zach Randolph, who couldn't hit water from a raft? He got 17 shots (making 4). But Gordon had to beg someone to give him the ball. He still finished as the Clippers' leading scorer, with 22 points on those 9 shots - maybe they should have gotten him some more shots. Hard to say.
The Clippers penchant for coaxing career nights from their opponents was on full display tonight. Prince - career high 12 assists. Will Bynum - career high 22 points. Kwame Brown - season high 14 points. Antonion McDyess - season high 24 points (and 17 rebounds to boot). Walter Herrmann - season high 27 minutes and a 2009 high 13 points. What's the record for most season-highs allowed in a single game? I'm pretty sure the Clippers broke it tonight.
The good news is I get a little break of sorts. I'll be in Seattle Sunday and Monday, and will miss the games in Toronto and Boston. Citizen Zhiv will be writing recaps. Thank FSM. I can use the break. Not to mention that my thesaurus is getting worn out on the page for 'embarrassing.'