A single game after they gave up a 24-8 run in the fourth quarter on the road to an Eastern Conference team, the Los Angeles Clippers turned right around and did the same exact thing again. This time, rather than allowing their opponent to get back into the game without actually losing the lead, the Clippers lost the lead to the Detroit Pistons, and even slipped behind by as much as 6 points. In the end, Los Angeles managed to still win the game in overtime. However, it was another concerning run given up by a team that has had trouble keeping the foot on the gas for 48 minutes. For the second straight Film Room, we’re going to watch the Clippers give up a 24-8 run.
During the 24-8 run that spanned the first 9 minutes of the fourth quarter, the Clippers shot just 4-of-15 from the field while the Pistons poured in 9 of their 19 shots, including 3-of-7 from downtown. There were defensive breakdowns, lackluster rotations, and just pure shot-making by Detroit. In a lot of ways, there was not much that the Clippers could do to halt what was happening. When a team is hot, a team is hot. However, there were some fundamental issues that Los Angeles needs to address – and quickly. So, with that said, let’s roll the footage, and let’s examine another 24-8 run given up by the team we love.
To kick off the action, we get Steve Blake dribbling across midcourt. He runs into a pick-and-roll with Aron Baynes, and the Clippers play it solidly enough so that Austin Rivers can recover to Blake while Josh Smith can be in position to meet Baynes on the roll. The ball rotates up to Anthony Tolliver at the top of the arc, and he finds Baynes on a post-up near the base of the free throw line circle. Baynes turns to his right, throws up a left-handed post hook from 6-feet out, and the ball goes in. Just like that, the lead is down into single digits.
Honestly, the Clippers defense didn’t play this terribly. Sure, Baynes gets some low post position on Smith, but this is still a tricky left-handed hook shot. In fact, even after last night, Baynes is averaging just 0.59 points per possession and 36.0 percent shooting on post-ups this season. The Clippers, theoretically, forced Detroit into a terrible shot here, but the Pistons made it because, well, they just made it. It simply happens from time to time. It’s one of those things a team has to live with, and last night the Clippers had to live with a bad low post player making a shot against a guy who holds opponents to 0.79 points per possession and 40.0 percent shooting on post-ups. Tip your hat and move on.
Shortly thereafter, the Pistons get an open look from deep. The possession starts with Steve Blake passing to Aron Baynes at the left elbow. From there, Blake runs through to set a down screen for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The latter comes off the screen, receives a screen hand-off from Baynes, and fires up a three that goes in. Once again, this is a shot the Clippers just had to live with it. While Jamal Crawford could have hurried over Baynes’ screen a little more, this is a shot you kind of want the Pistons to take – especially factoring in who is taking it.
Going into last night’s contest, Caldwell-Pope was shooting just 28.9 percent from deep, and just 26.2 percent on wing threes. It’s not as if he’s been some kind of prodigious three-point threat this season. Caldwell-Pope is only averaging 0.67 points per possession on hand-offs this season, and just 0.48 points per possession on 6-of-31 shooting when coming off of a screen. As noted earlier, this is a shot you just have to live with. It’s taken by a guy who isn’t making a high percentage of them this season, as well as a guy who has pretty much struggled all-around to put the ball in the hoop on jumpers. In the end, he made this shot. Yet again, just tip your hat and move on.
Detroit has a side-out-of-bounds here, and we get to see just how much bad fortune the Clippers had to start this fourth quarter. The ball is inbounded by Stanley Johnson to Aaron Baynes, and Baynes then dribbles into a screen hand-off for Steve Blake. Blake then passes to Johnson when Jamal Crawford pinches down on Blake’s drive, and Johnson attacks Crawford on a closeout when Jamal tries to recover back. Johnson throws up a wild right-handed push shot that falls off the rim, and three players go up for the rebound. Unfortunately for the Clippers, it looks like Crawford and Josh Smith combo-tip the ball into their own team’s hoop. Two points for Detroit, and the Los Angeles lead is now down to a scant 5 points.
This is one of those “if you didn’t have bad luck, you’d have no luck at all” situations. Considering how the Pistons scored on the first three possessions of their run, it’s safe to say that much was not going right for the Clippers. Aron Baynes, a bad post player, made a post hook over Josh Smith, a good post defender. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a bad shooter this season, made a three-pointer on a play set that he normally doesn’t shoot a respectable rate on. And, lastly, we see the Clippers tip the ball into their own net on a rebound because, as luck would have it during this stretch, that’s just basketball. Stuff happens, ya know?
A possession later, we see more tomfoolery of the basketball variety. Caldwell-Pope is in transition after a defensive rebound, and he dribbles into a pick-and-roll with Baynes. Wesley Johnson effectively ices the screen which forces Caldwell-Pope back towards Josh Smith, but the shooting guard still pulls up for a mid-range jumper in the face of solid defense. Lo and behold, the former Georgia product knocks in the jumper, and now the Los Angeles lead is down to a measly 3 points with just over 9 minutes to play.
Prior to last night, Caldwell-Pope was shooting just 34.7 percent from 8-to-24 feet. The jumper that you just watched him hit was officially from 13-feet out. Before last night’s game, Caldwell-Pope was just 7-of-26 from 10-to-14 feet on the season. While he’s not a terrible pick-and-roll ball-handler, averaging 0.85 points per possession and 40.9 percent shooting, Caldwell-Pope isn’t exactly great at it. However, in this one instance where a defender was closing in on him, he made a jumper to trim the lead to a single possession. If you have any other hats left, tip them and move on.
The Pistons have a baseline out-of-bounds here, and it comes to Steve Blake who then ball rotates up to Anthony Tolliver. After that, Tolliver hands off to Caldwell-Pope and sets a slip screen. The guard gets downhill, but he gets frozen by Blake Griffin and Paul Pierce, and he’s forced to pick up his dribble. However, he spots a cutting Aron Baynes. Caldwell-Pope attempts a bounce pass, but Wesley Johnson digs down to swipe at it. The ball is knocked loose, rolls on the floor, and Baynes grabs it before then dunking on Johnson to trim the lead down to a single tally.
Call it what you want, but this could be seen as another instance of just bad luck in some ways. The Clippers don’t play this perfectly, but they play it well enough to force a turnover in a ton of similar scenarios. The weakside defender is supposed to dig down on the rolling big, and then he has to recover to his own man in the corner should a skip pass be made. Johnson does everything right. He digs down on Baynes, swipes at the ball, and he does knock it loose. The only problem is that Baynes eventually comes up with the ball and dunks it. The Clippers weren’t in perfect defensive harmony here, but they were in good enough position to force a turnover – until the basketball gods decided they weren’t.
Now we get to the possession where the Pistons take the lead. This entire play by Detroit pretty much is snuffed out. Baynes tries to set a pick, Chris Paul gets over the pick to push the ball-handler right at DeAndre Jordan, and Reggie Jackson has to then dribble back out of the paint because there’s nothing there for him. Jackson passes back to Anthony Tolliver, who then passes back to Jackson before setting a screen. This forces a switch where Blake Griffin has to then guard Jackson, and Jackson then sizes up for a few seconds before unleashing a three in Griffin’s face as the power forward contests it. Yet again, something you just have to live with it. Adequate defense was beaten by better offense.
This is probably the first defensive breakdown of the fourth quarter, if we’re being honest. The Pistons run their 1-5 screen-and-roll action that’s designed to just traumatize opposing defenses. Andre Drummond sets the screen on Chris Paul. The Clipper guard fights over the top of it, and DeAndre Jordan is right there to meet Reggie Jackson at the top of the arc. However, when Drummond rolls to the hoop, no one is there to dig down. Jamal Crawford makes a half-hearted attempt to do it, but he then jumps back towards Marcus Morris in the right corner. Blake Griffin is far too late to rotate over, and that allows for the lob to be possible. Two points for Detroit, and their lead is now up to 4 points.
No idea if this is a simple miscommunication, but the Clippers defended this like amateurs on the back end. Up top, everything was fine. The back line was where it got a little screwy. Crawford can’t just dig down and then retreat like that. You’d much rather have Morris get the ball than Drummond in that situation. Griffin played it almost like he expected Crawford to be the help defender, and maybe he was, but Griffin can’t just watch the action happen without actually moving on the play. This was poor. Just abysmal.
The Pistons are in transition here, and Jackson throws the ball up to Morris for a layup attempt. DeAndre Jordan forces a miss by challenging the attempt, but Andre Drummond is right there for the putback layup. As the trailing player on this possession, Jamal Crawford needs to actually attack the glass here rather than just playfully jogging towards the baseline. J.J. Redick was on the right side of the rim, but no one was on the left side. Jordan has to contest this shot or else it’s a layup for Detroit. You can’t just lazily make your way back into the play during a game you’re losing. Do better. This is another one of the breakdowns. This isn’t to say that Crawford would have gotten the rebound, but at least he could have been in position to fight for it here.
Finally, we have another instance of a breakdown by the Clippers. And, yet again, it comes in a transition setting. Caldwell-Pope has the ball, stops at the right wing three-point area, and spots Marcus Morris on the left wing. As the pass is being made, Wesley Johnson attempts to recover, but Morris attacks the closeout well enough to drive baseline. Because of Anthony Tolliver’s hard rim run, J.J. Redick leaves Caldwell-Pope to duck in on Tolliver as DeAndre Jordan attempts to help on Morris’ drive. Morris finds Caldwell-Pope on the wing for a catch-and-shoot three, and the Pistons are now up by 6 points with 3 minutes to play.
If you’re wondering why you don’t see Blake Griffin until the very end of this play, it’s because he was on the floor on the other side of the court after he thought he got fouled. The turnover led to this sequence. He gave a lazy effort in running back, which is partially why someone was left open in the first place. The other problem is that Chris Paul is left in a 1-on-2 situation on the wing when Redick has to abandon his man to help on Tolliver. The Clippers got out of sorts from the beginning, and all it took was a skip pass, an attack of a closeout, and one kick pass to generate a relatively open look. These sorts of things happen, but you can’t allow them to happen at this juncture of a game.
The first six shots the Pistons made during this 24-8 run were not breakdowns by the defense. In all reality, the Clippers played a lot of those possession really well and forced Detroit into tough shots that the Pistons simply just made. It happens. The last three, however, were instances where the defense faltered in a big way – either through lazy effort, bad planning, or just not knowing what you’re supposed to do. Those are the annoying plays. Detroit got plenty of makes by bad shooting players in spots they normally don’t shoot well from, and that’s something you have to just accept from time to time. What isn’t acceptable, though, is letting this happen two games in a row. The Clippers need to step it up if they want to be successful.