The second half in Phoenix on Tuesday night was not particularly pretty for the Los Angeles Clippers. Combined with the full evening Friday night in L.A. that now makes three consecutive halves of pre-season basketball where this supposed contender has looked like anything but championship material. Maybe it's for the best. You can't really win anything in pre-season anyway, so perhaps it's better to underperform and avoid any sort of overconfidence. The team and coaching staff certainly can't afford to be coasting into the regular season after their performances this week.
The irony of this game is that the Clippers spent their off-season adding shooters, but they just couldn't make shots against the Blazers. Darren Collison (31 points) and Blake Griffin (18) combined for 49 of the team's 84 points on 17-35 shooting, but the rest of the Clippers were well below 30 percent making a dismal 12-47 from the field. They were particularly bad from deep, going 1-15.
It didn't help that their top two shooting guards were missing, as J.J. Redick continued to sit out the pre-season with a thigh bruise and veteran Willie Green got the night off to rest. In a further irony, the results of this game would seem to indicate that the continually forgotten Green is one of the most important players on the team. That's an intentional exaggeration, but few Clippers hit open shots as consistently as Green.
Even accounting for the absence of Redick and Green, the shooting was dreadful, and there was plenty of blame to go around. Check this out:
It's a simple game at some level -- you have to be able to make shots to win, and the Clippers couldn't make shots. And with Redick, Green, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Maalik Wayns all unavailable, the Clippers were down to four players in uniform who regularly play the 1, 2 or 3 spot. Instead, both Antawn Jamison and Brandon Davies got minutes on the wing, something that will rarely happen during the regular season if at all.
If you look at the stats, you'll also notice that the Blazers killed the Clippers on the boards, outrebounding them 56-38. That's not good, but it is at least partially another symptom of the poor shooting. There are always more defensive rebounds than offensive rebounds, so if your team is missing shots, it's often leading to a lot of rebounds for the opponent. The Clippers certainly should have done better on the boards -- but Portland's 18 additional rebounds flowed at least in part from the 11 additional Clipper misses.
I don't much feel like dissecting the performance of the team any further; shoot better, play better, that's the plan going forward -- now that's coaching.