The dreaded second of back to back games. On the road. In Utah. Without Chris Paul. Without Mo Williams. The odds were not too hot for the Clippers heading into this contest. But the Clippers didn't just lose. They did not simply fail to cover the spread (vegas lines opened with clippers getting 4 points). The Clippers completely mailed this game in. Here is the box score, for those of you brave enough to read it.
I am not a fan of any team throwing away games (I take that back, I was pretty thrilled when we tanked at the end of 06' to ensure our matchup with the Denver Nuggets), but if there was ever a night to do so, this was it. Historically, teams are much less likely to win the second of back to back games when on the road. When you consider that the Clippers just won the first of three games in three days against New Jersey, why not take off the one game out of three you are most likely to lose anyway? I am not saying that the Clippers tanked, per se, but they definitely did not give a great effort. Disappointing to watch, but what can you do?. Let Paul and Williams get healthy, and bounce back with a better effort at home against Dallas.
Now for some game breakdown. Chris Paul's absence means the Clippers are downgrading at both back court spots. Chauncey Billups is still a savvy, veteran player with plenty of game left, but he simply doesn't bring to the table what Chris Paul does. And where Chauncey Billups is still a capable enough starter at the two, Randy Foye is not a quality starter at the shooting guard spot. In addition to not being as good as Chauncey, he doesn't get the benefit of the open looks created by Chris Paul. As a result, the backcourt was completely ineffective tonight (7-26 from the floor, 3-10 from three). The ineffectiveness of the backcourt had an impact on the rest of the offense as well. From the outset, the Clippers were settling for long jumpers, with very little success. The offense was stagnant, with little to no ball movement. The Clippers shot 36.5% as a team, and continued their abysmal free throw shooting. Luckily, the Clippers' stellar defensive effort would keep them in the game.
Oh wait, that didn't happen. The Clippers defense was even worse than the offense. The team was flat footed from the outset. The Jazz offense was fluid, and still seemed a lot like the old Jerry Sloan offense, getting them good looks at the rim and mid range jumpers. The Clippers were slow on rotations, did not close out on shooters, and did an atrocious job against the pick n roll. For a 5 minute period ion the first half, the Clippers managed to make CJ Miles look like Clyde Drexler. This is an indication that things are not going well. And when CJ Miles and Alec Burks have the same amount of points as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on fewer shots, things officially did not go well.
There is no question that when healthy, the Clippers are in a class above the Utah Jazz. However, as has been the case for about 20 years, the Jazz play hard and execute their offense, especially at home. It takes a maximum effort to go into Utah and come away with a win. The Clippers didnt do this tonight, and the result was as you would expect. The Clippers may not have tanked the game, but they certainly didn't come to play. It will be very interesting to see how they respond tomorrow night at Staples against the World champs.
I thought Blake Griffin actually played pretty well. At the very least, he seemed to be playing with some energy, which is more than can be said for the rest of the team. When Chris Paul is out, (hopefully not something they have to worry about too often) the offense needs to go through Blake Griffin, but it needs to go into him in the low block. He isn't a dominant post scorer yet, but he is still a handful for opposing defenses ( and I'll take my chances with Blake working on the block over 20 footers from Randy Foye. The pick and pop/pick and roll is great, but if Blake is settling for 19 footers, the other team is not going to complain.
Courtney Fortson played pretty admirably tonight. He is undersized but quick, and he definitely looks to pass first. It might not be with the Clippers this season, but I think he will be on a roster has backup guard in the future.
Deandre Jordan was a non factor tonight. His inability to create for himself on offense really stands out on a night when the other starters are struggling.
8 rebounds and a block to go along with 2 points is not getting it done DJ.
Free throw Shooting: just a shade above 60% for the Clippers tonight. This needs to improve. Theres no reason that a roster with Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler in the starting lineup should be this consitently bad.
Fear not fellow citizens. It was ugly and disappointing for a full 48 minutes, but this was a throw away game for the Clippers, and they are going to be just fine. Chris Paul and Mo WIlliams will be back soon, and the Clipper's mojo will come back with them.