With the rest of the West emerging victorious last night, the Clippers would have suffered a pretty painful loss in Phoenix were it not for Matt Barnes going bonkers in the first few minutes of the third quarter. Let's take a look at just how the Clips' starting small forward managed to get open time and time again to put together his run of 16 points on six consecutive makes.
Play 1: Corner screen-and-roll, kick to the weakside corner, swing to Barnes at the top of the key
The Clippers use Barnes to set up a corner screen-and-roll for Paul and Griffin here, having him fade to the top of the key after he makes the pass to Paul. The Suns 'ice' this pick-and-roll, with Dragic playing up on the screen, rendering it useless, and Frye guarding the drive on the baseline. Paul makes the right read and hits Griffin on a slight role, which forces Alex Len to step up to guard the rim, sucking Gerald Green in to keep DeAndre from getting an easy lob. Griffin sees this and makes the pass to Darren Collison in the corner. Collision knows that the athletic Green can recover for a good contest, so he pumpfakes and drives, drawing P.J. Tucker, leaving Barnes wide open for three. Great ball movement here from the Clippers. Everybody touched the ball except for Jordan, and DJ's presence around the rim had an impact on Collison getting free.
Play 2: Barnes goes coast-to-coast for a pull-up three off a pick-and-roll
At this point you could tell Barnes was feeling it. Per NBA.com's SportVU data, Barnes is shooting 26% on pull-up shots this season, and he rarely ever attempts them. Moreover, per Synergy Sports Technology, Barnes has only attempted 14 shots off of pick-and-rolls this season. Grabbing the board and pushing it up the floor isn't all that unusual, but for he and Blake to flow into a pick-and-roll, and for Barnes to pull up right away once he saw Tucker drop under the screen, was a sign.
Play 3: Attacking an aggressive closeout in semi-transition
The Clippers push the ball after a Collison steal here, with Griffin doing the playmaking. He gets to the left elbow and dishes to Barnes in the corner. Strangely, Tucker feels the need to jump out at Barnes despite being in decent enough position to slide over and make Barnes drive or take a somewhat contested shot. Instead, he flies by and Barnes is able to take a dribble and pull-up for the mid-range shot. It's not a horrible result for Phoenix given that Barnes is shooting 25% on mid-range shots this season, but he was feeling it, and he got a wide open look because Tucker was afraid of Barnes getting off a clean shot from deep.
Play 4: Side pick-and-roll with a flare screen on the weakside
After their primary pick-and-roll was muddied up, the Clippers go to a side pick-and-roll with Paul and Jordan as a secondary action. Having Collison in the strongside corner makes for some crampt spacing, but Griffin and Barnes do some really nice, cunning improvising on the backside. Griffin sees that Dragic, Barnes' man, is ball watching and decides to set a flare screen for Barnes to fade to the left wing as Paul probes off of his pick-and-roll. Frye overreacts to Paul's probe and gets caught in the paint, leaving Barnes wide open from deep.
Play 5: Making the most of a broken play
A broken play results in Paul tracking the ball down in the corner and getting it to Griffin in the pinch post. Barnes is already wide open when Paul snares the loose ball as Tucker and Dragic have chased the play, so once DeAndre cuts hard to the rim on Blake's dribble, Barnes is left free to fire at the top of the key. Blake makes a slick no-look pass and Barnes delievers yet again.
Play 6: An elbow pindown producing penetration
The Clippers run a pindown for Barnes on the right elbow here. Tucker does a good job chasing Barnes around, forcing him to catch the ball on the dive, which isn't a horrible thing since Barnes is so good on the cut. But Alex Len is there to protect the rim, forcing Barnes to make the dumpoff pas to Jordan about 12 feet from the rim. For whatever reason, Tucker decides to abandon Barnes and shuffle to Jordan, giving the big man, who probably would have just taken a dribble and tried to post Len had Tucker stayed with Barnes, the option to make a quick pass back to Barnes for a floater.
Barnes scored a variety of ways during the first five minutes of the third quarter and his hot shooting continued a very encouraging trend. Barnes will surely come down from this high at some point, but if his three-point percentage can stabilize around 38% or so, the Clippers will have a very reliable role player on both ends of the court starting at small forward, and that's a big deal for a team that's dealing with injuries to their two shooting guards and sifting through their bevy of back-up forwards to establish an optimal playoff rotation.