The Clippers are 29th out of 30 teams in the NBA in turnovers per game this year (or I guess they're second, depending on how you look at it), with a little over 16 each night. Tonight, they committed 23 against the Hornets in New Orleans. Some of the credit can be given to the Hornets, who are a good defensive team. But in fact, New Orleans is actually right around the league average of turnovers forced per game, at about 14.2 per game, and indeed, watching this game it was difficult not to notice the inordinate number of unforced errors committed by the Clippers.
When the decision was made shortly before tipoff to rest Baron Davis, who has suffered a relapse of the soreness in his knee that kept him out for most of November, this type of game became a distinct possibility. Eric Bledsoe is a tantalizing talent, but he's still learning the game at the age of 21, and in particular learning the point guard spot. The single biggest flaw in his game at this point is his penchant for taking unnecessary, even silly, risks with the ball. He gave the ball away 4 times tonight, which is not good, but not as bad as it could have been (for instance, he wasn't charged with a turnover for the uncatchable lob he threw to Griffin in the first quarter). Unfortunately, his butter fingers seemed to be contagious, as three other Clippers (Blake Griffin, Ryan Gomes and Chris Kaman) also committed 4 each, and Randy Foye committed 3. All told, the 23 turnovers for the Clippers tied for their third highest total of the season. It was the seventh time this season that they've committed 20 or more, and not surprisingly, they haven't won very many of those games: only one of them in fact. (It was the second time this season they've committed more than 20 turnovers against the Hornets. The Clippers committed 48 turnovers in two trips to New Orleans this year. Is that why they call it the Big Easy?)
Without Baron Davis, and with Eric Gordon still out, I wouldn't have given the Clippers much of a chance in this game. After all, those guys have been two of the Clippers three best players this year by a wide margin. But surprisingly, had it not been for the terrible job taking care of the basketball, the Clippers would have been right in this game.
In fact, the game was more or less lost during a 12-0 Hornets run to close out the first quarter. The run changed a 5 point Clipper lead into a 7 point deficit, and the final margin of the game wound up being 11, so yeah, it was pretty important. During the run, the Clippers committed 6 turnovers in just 4 minutes. They only got 3 shots at the basket during that time. In other words, in the final four minutes of the quarter, the Clippers had twice as many turnovers as shot attempts.
The good news was, as it almost always is, Blake Griffin, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, although he also missed a pair of dunks very uncharacteristically. The Clippers also got a nice showing from Chris Kaman, who scored 14 points off the bench (though he did also have those 4 turnovers). Kaman played 25 minutes to DeAndre Jordan's 16, and one wonders how much longer it will be before Chris is back in the starting lineup. He still looks more than a little rusty - at least two of the turnovers were traveling violations resulting from sloppy footwork - but his jump shot looks good, and he appears ready to contribute consistently. I didn't think his teammates did a very good job of finding him, and the spacing was not always good between he and Griffin, but hopefully those things will improve as they play together. You have to remember how little Kaman has played with this group of teammates.
It's unknown how long Baron will be out of the lineup. I'd expect that he'd really love to play against the Lakers on Friday, if he is able to at all. It's ironic to some degree that Baron, never really considered the most sure-handed of point guards in his NBA career - he's 12th among active players in career turnovers himself - is the steadying influence for this team, but it's true. Baron's turnover percentage this season is 16, which is the highest it's been since his second season in the league. But compared to Bledsoe's eye-popping 25.7 turnover percentage, Baron is a major improvement.
In fact, Bledsoe's turnover percentage is the second highest in the league, behind only the mercurial Rajon Rondo, so until Baron is back, you can probably expect more 20 turnover nights for the team. And more losses.
Mercifully, the team gets to come back to LA at this point. The Odyssey is drawing to a close. They have one more road game on this trip officially, against the Lakers in Staples Center Friday, before they actually play a home game again on Saturday against the Celtics. During the ten games of the true road portion of their trip, they were a disastrous 2-8. They'll certainly be happy to be home.