Some wanted it, some didn’t. Despite the votes being split evenly down the middle, it was ultimately decided that you guys would get rewarded with a Film Room of the first preseason game. Now, it’s not going to be an amazing one by any means. We’re not going to go super in-depth about what transpired or anything like that. We’re just going to look at some of the highlights of the game for the team and break them down a little bit since that’s easier. Hey, we’re in preseason form, as well. But, you guys will be getting a Film Room after every single regular season game throughout the year. So, you better be prepared for that. Let’s dive into the film!
For the sake of interest, we’re going to run the best play of the game through the Film Room first and then work our way through the other parts of the game. The reason for that is because this play is the epitome of the Los Angeles Clippers offensive system and showcases why they’re such a deadly ecosystem of firepower. It’s the classic Clippers pick-and-roll and, as it should be of no real shock, the team scored rather easily out of the set because of four very key components here. Roll the footage!
The play starts with Chris Paul dribbling up into the frontcourt while the Denver Nuggets are trying to get set on defense. While Denver is doing that, DeAndre Jordan runs up and sets a little rub screen on rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. As Jordan engages in that activity, Paul starts to crossover back towards the middle of the court. Jordan notices this and turns to screen Mudiay once more. Kenneth Faried does an admirable job attempting to shield Paul from the paint and Paul has to throw a wild pass in the air. Except it’s not so wild. The moment Jordan sets the second screen on Mudiay, he sprints towards the rim and gets his head on a swivel to locate any possible lob pass. The Nuggets are too late to react and the ball is slammed home. While it seems like a simple pick-and-roll ending in an alley-oop dunk, there’s still so much more here.
Notice how when Paul turns the corner around the left elbow, Blake Griffin spaces out to just underneath the top of the arc. He’s awaiting any possible pass for an open mid-range jumper. Griffin shot confidently on those last season and will need to once again this year to keep defenses honest. Because of this, J.J. Hickson gets sort of caught in no man’s land here. He decides to hover just south of the free throw line and gets caught unable to help on Jordan’s roll. Speaking of keeping defenses honest, Denver has to respect J.J. Redick on the strongside so much that it allows Paul to weasel his way around the paint and throw a lob. As Paul turns the corner, Randy Foye closes down on Redick in the corner which means he can’t help contest anything Paul does. The weakside defender here is Wilson Chandler and he attempts to make a play on the lob, but he’s unable to stop Jordan from getting there.
This play starts out so simple, but it employs so many moving parts that do their job extremely well. Jordan is an excellent screen-and-roll guy, as well as a finisher, and that gives the Clippers so many options on this one play. If Denver overhelps on Jordan’s roll then Paul can kick back to Griffin for either a mid-range jumper or Griffin can then ball rotate to the weakside and hit Wesley Johnson for an open corner three. If Foye helps too much off of Redick then Paul hits Redick on the strongside for a corner three himself. It’s a basic principle and it pays off in a huge way. From the time Paul crosses halfcourt to the time the lob is finished, the play takes a grand total of six seconds. Think about everything that just transpired in six seconds. It’s wildly impressive and speaks volumes about what this team can do just out of this one play.
This play starts with some transition defense supplied by an unexpected source. The Clippers bench unit is in and Emmanuel Mudiay is dribbling down the court in a transition opportunity before Jamal Crawford strips the ball clean from him. This ignites a fast break the other way. The ball bounds towards the sideline and Josh Smith picks it up and dribbles up the court with it. In the meantime, Crawford smartly fills the running lane in the middle of the floor so it gives the team an option should Smith pass. As Smith is dribbling across the halfcourt line, Jameer Nelson tries to stop the ball but ultimately cannot. Smith hits Crawford in stride who then throws a lob pass to DeAndre Jordan for another dunk. By filling the middle, Crawford forces Nikola Jokic to make a decision here. Jokic has to try and stop the ball himself and that leaves Jordan free to rim run for the alley-oop. Credit Crawford all-around here. He strips the ball, runs to fill the right gap, and then makes a quick decision to Jordan. Also, credit Smith for making the proper read on the break and not holding the ball too long.
There’s no fancy basketball mumbo jumbo going on here. No intricate details about what happens. It’s simply just bully ball. The Clippers possession ends with Blake Griffin hoisting a mid-range jumper near the right elbow. J.J. Hickson contests it – albeit not great – and the Nuggets appear to have forced the Clippers into a wasted possession. Not so fast, though. As the shot goes up, Josh Smith starts to inch along the baseline and tries to time everything. The ball careens off the front of the rim and Smith goes to make a play on it. Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay sort of collide and Smith is able to grab the ball over them. There’s no way of knowing if Smith gets that ball if the two players don’t run into each other. However, he hustles for the ball and never gave up on it. He still skied up over the two of them and finished with a putback dunk. This is what Smith can bring to the bench – i.e. a hustle guy who can rebound offensively and make teams pay for not boxing out. The Clippers lacked that off the bench last season.
This is one of those plays that you just start thinking "no, no, no, no, yes." While we get to see the play develop a tad late in this GIF, pay attention to everything that unfolds. Lance Stephenson is dribbling one-on-one against Erick Green and trying to probe for any advantage. When he realizes there is none, Blake Griffin walks over to him and sets a little double-screen on Green to free Stephenson up. This allows Lance to turn the corner with a crossover and get into space. I have no idea what J.J. Hickson is doing here, though. He simply backs off and lets Stephenson rise up for the jumper. While mid-range jumpers aren’t efficient shots, you definitely don’t want to just give guys wide open ones. Stephenson gets one here and sinks it. This is sort of what he can do. He can play one-on-one and dribble around, but when he uses it with a screen and understands spacing a tad more then he can truly help out. The other thing to note here is that when Lance turns the corner to rise and fire, Emmanuel Mudiay leaves Austin Rivers wide open on the weakside from three. Lance could have passed to Rivers, but there’s no problem taking the shot he was given. It’s just something to watch going forward.
As the GIF starts, we see DeAndre Jordan finishing setting a pick. This enables Chris Paul to turn the corner and dart into the paint. By doing this, the entire Nuggets defense turns to look at Paul. Specifically, Wilson Chandler. Chandler sees Jordan’s screen and tries to inch along the baseline to shut off any potential lob. This is a problem because it leaves Paul Pierce wide open on the weakside wing. Pierce throws his arm in the air to notify Paul – which isn’t needed – and Paul hits Pierce who then hits the three before Emmanuel Mudiay can contest it. Why was Mudiay late contesting it? Because Pablo Prigioni sets a sneaky little rub screen as Paul rises to pass. Seriously, watch Prigioni. He not only sets the screen, but he motions to Paul to throw the pass to Pierce! How great is this guy?! This is something that Pierce gives the team. He’s an adept wing/corner three shooter and you can’t leave him open like you could with Matt Barnes. Denver makes that grave mistake and they paid for it. Clippers push their lead to 19 points and you can see, once again, how much a simple pick-and-roll can open up for the team.
This possession starts with a drive by Emmanuel Mudiay that is contested very well by Blake Griffin. The ball sails off the backboard and into the waiting hands of DeAndre Jordan, who then quickly turns and fires a mini-outlet pass to Chris Paul. You can tell this is by design and is something they’ve worked on over the years. The second the ball hits Jordan’s hands, he swivels his head and locates Paul. Now watch what happens from there. Paul receives the ball and fires an absolute beauty of a bounce pass to a sprinting Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni gathers in stride and lays it in. It’s so much more magisterial than that, though. When the shot by Mudiay goes up, Prigioni – who is in the strongside corner – immediately darts down the court. He already knows what’s coming. Just watch him. Ball goes up, he’s near his man. Second the ball hits the backboard, he’s beyond the three-point line. When it hits Jordan’s hands, he’s already cleared the line even more. By the time Paul clutches the ball, Prigioni is darn near halfcourt. The pass from Paul hits Prigioni perfectly in stride at Denver’s three-point line. It’s poetry in motion.
This final play comes late in the fourth quarter and is one of the more important plays of the game for not only the team, but for the confidence of the bench unit. The entire bench is in at this point. On the floor during this transition possession are Austin Rivers, C.J. Wilcox, Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson, and Josh Smith. This is the advantage Smith can give you as a small ball center. Stephenson dribbles the ball near halfcourt and spots Smith backpedaling near the three-point line. Thankfully, Smith doesn’t stay out there for long. Stephenson fires a dart of a pass to Smith and Smith takes one power dribble before rising up and dunking all over Nikola Jokic. This is the issue larger centers will have against Smith. He’s athletically superior to them and can use his quickness to beat them to spots. In this case, the spot is the rim. Jokic has to respect Stephenson’s ball-handling as Lance is coming downhill and that makes him lose track of Smith. Jokic is late to rotate and ends up on a poster. To compound the issue, Jokic fouls Smith.
Transition is where the bench unit will have to live this season. They’re never going to be a fully functioning offensive juggernaut when it comes to sets and systems. They have to create havoc and go from there. In this instance, that’s exactly what happens. Lance pushes the ball, Denver gets sort of lost trying to scramble back, and Smith takes advantage of a less-athletic big man who isn’t used to guarding someone of Smith’s caliber. Credit goes to Stephenson here for recognizing the mismatch in transition and getting Smith the ball so Smith can do what he does best – i.e. finish around the rim. That’s how that relationship needs to work throughout the entire season. Also, notice how both Wilcox and Rivers stop to spot-up at the three-point line. Rivers fades into the corner and Wilcox sort of trots into the wing area. Johnson is cutting through the paint to fill the middle lane, as well. It’s definitely a major positive to take away from this game and it bodes very well for this unit and team as we get into the season.
Film Room will be coming your way after every single regular season game this season. At least that’s the plan. Plans can change, but for now that’s the way it should go. Hope you enjoyed the preseason and season debut of the series. If you missed any of the past ones from this year, you can always visit the stream for 2015-16 Film Rooms and check out the individual player ones that were done for each of the new additions to the roster this offseason. Depending on some things, you guys might get one for game two of the preseason which tips off tonight against the Toronto Raptors in Vancouver.