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Film Room: Boxing out shouldn't be this tough for a group of professionals

Last night in Portland, the team really struggled with a fundamental portion of basketball – boxing out and rebounding. We're going to take a look at it.

Rebounding is an effort and fundamental area. There has to be at least some basic understanding of angles, body control, and leverage when you want to be a darn good rebounder. There also has to be at least some great effort involved if you want to become an even better rebounder. Being a great rebounder doesn’t just happen. It takes years and years of honing to make the end result possible. Last night in Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers chose to rebound like a bunch of amateurs – and it cost them dearly.

Truth be told, the team didn’t even play bad defense last night. In all actuality, they were a pretty sound defensive unit. It didn’t look pretty, but they were able to bog the Portland Trail Blazers down for large portions of that game by being active on the perimeter and funneling everything towards the middle of the floor where bigs were there to help. They just couldn’t adequately secure enough rebounds to end a lot of those great possessions.

According to the Player Tracking data, Portland had 37 offensive rebound chances last night and came away with 17 of them. They rebounded 17 of their 52 misses, which is 32.7 percent, and scored 25 second chance points. The Clippers went into last night with the 5th worst Opponent’s Offensive Rebound Rate. After last night’s debacle on the glass, they’re now the 4th worst team in that department. For a team that doesn’t offensive rebound themselves, it’s absolutely prudent that they keep opponents off the glass. They are not. And last night was the latest example. Let’s get to the footage.

We’re just beyond the midway point of the first quarter here, and Damian Lillard is trying to get into the paint with a heavy dribble. Chris Paul stops Lillard cold, and Lillard passes to Noah Vonleh at the left elbow. Vonleh has a ton of space because Blake Griffin is gimpy and unable to recover quick enough. However, Vonleh misses. Except that doesn’t end the possession because Mason Plumlee beats DeAndre Jordan’s boxout by simply moving. That’s all it took. Jordan puts a right hand into Plumlee’s chest, but Plumlee swims to the left and fights for the ball before securing it.

What should Jordan have done? Actually get a body into his man. This is all on him. Nothing else on this play even affects how the rebound chance takes place. Plumlee simply just refuses to be bullied by a weak right hand. All Plumlee had to do was a quick hand swim over Jordan’s hand. Think about how pathetic that is. You’re being paid max money to keep opponents off the glass and this is how you choose to rebound? You can’t do this. Ever. This is something to get ashamed about. Zero fundamentals, zero effort. Oh, this rebound resulted in a three-point-play by Lillard.

We’re in the second quarter now, and all that happens is Gerald Henderson thinks he’s still amazing at basketball or something of the sort. Henderson takes Jamal Crawford in an isolation setting and drives to the rim. Unfortunately for him, Blake Griffin is right there to meet him. Griffin goes up with the rule of verticality, and Henderson misses wildly off the backboard. However, unfortunately for the Clippers, Ed Davis grabs the rebound and puts the ball in the hoop before anyone on the Clippers can even recover to him. More second chance points.

First things first, Griffin does nothing wrong here whatsoever. He switches onto Henderson, hustles back to his man, and then contests the shot in the paint by staying straight up. It’s beautiful. It’s textbook. What’s not textbook, though, is the way Luc Richard Mbah a Moute helps on this play. You have to help the helper. As Henderson drives, Davis starts to sort of box Mbah a Moute out, but all Luc has to do is fight back. Same thing with Crawford. For some reason, Crawford keeps drifting under the hoop when Henderson drives. That wasn’t needed at all. Everyone just needed to do better.

It’s late in the third quarter now and the game is tied. Ed Davis sets a screen on Austin Rivers so that Damian Lillard can get downhill. Lillard spots that DeAndre Jordan comes to help on the screen, so Lillard aggressively takes the ball to the rim. Jordan plays this as perfect as perfect can be, and he forces Lillard into a tough layup attempt that clanks off the rim. Davis flies in from the perimeter and lays the ball in. More second chance points.

Who gets the blame here? Well, it’s hard to assign it to people. Theoretically, it goes to Austin Rivers for not diving down faster and budging Davis as Davis made a rim run for a rebound. You could also assign blame to Josh Smith for not rolling to the correct side of the rim as a helper. He should know that Jordan has this play pretty well bottled up. Instead, Smith stays on the right side rather than diving to the left side to help on a rebound or drop pass. Basically, poor effort by all again – except for Jordan.

With a two point lead and the ball, Portland opts to have C.J. McCollum control this possession. Austin Rivers gets fooled by a coming Ed Davis screen, and also gets crossed over. Except, that’s not even the most egregious part of this play. Josh Smith does some half-hearted swipe at the ball before then getting beat to the offensive glass by his own man who started about three feet behind him on the play. It’s lazy. Everyone was just lazy. Great job by Mbah a Moute to at least help on the drive and force a miss, but everyone else sucked – and no one more so than Smith. To top it all off, this play ends as a loose ball foul on Smith himself. He deserved it for the pitiful attempt he made on this entire possession.

If this is the kind of effort and hustle people are going to give, then why even play at all? Hell, why even show up for work? Don’t just lazily make a passing swipe at the ball. And you sure as hell shouldn’t just stand there after doing so when you know, for a fact, that your man loves to crash the offensive glass. Ed Davis killed them in this game, but the Clippers most certainly helped him along the way. The word is being used a ton now, but this was definitely lazy. Lazy lazy lazy.

Three minutes later the Clippers are still trailing by two and the Blazers have the ball. Lillard receives a screen from Davis, and Chris Paul gets sucked way too off of McCollum on the perimeter simply because he’s trying to dig down on the rolling big man in an effort to help Rivers. Lillard finds McCollum at the top of the arc, but the Clippers get lucky because McCollum misses the wide open three. However, their luck runs out. Why? Well, Ed Davis is there for another offensive rebound. Rinse and repeat.

First off, it’s hard to blame Paul for leaving McCollum open. It’s a tough choice between the roll man and the spacing man. It’s hard to say that he made the wrong decision. The team got lucky by McCollum missing it, but then no one even boxed Davis out. Austin Rivers got boxed out by Davis, as a matter of fact. This one is also on Josh Smith, by the way. He just stands there watching the ball after Lillard passes rather than at least getting a body on Davis. You can’t just stand there and wait. You actually have to move, and Smith didn’t. You can’t be the team’s center in this lineup and not want to rebound. It’s absurd.

Every team gives up offensive rebounds. Yes, even ones like these that were give up last night. However, the truly great teams in this league don’t give them up because they simply refuse to pay attention. Last night, a lot of what the Clippers did wrong on the glass was because they did not pay one iota of attention to detail. Know who is on the floor with you – and that goes for both teams. Know your responsibility. Know your angles. Know your personnel. And, most of all, actually compete. If you don’t want to compete, then just go sit on the bench and collect your paycheck because, at that point, you’re worthless.