Normally when we do the Film Room portion of game analyzation we will look at a certain player or team during the game that did things right or wrong. It’s pretty straightforward a lot of the time. We’ll give the footage a once-over, sometimes a twice-over, and figure out what we’re going to write about for that game. The driving force behind this Film Room did not come until after the game was over when Doc Rivers said, "I didn’t think [Lance Stephenson] had a great defensive night" and "defensively we got to have him improve, and our team, too." It definitely seems odd that he would call out Stephenson for his defense when he refuses to call out certain other players for theirs. So, we’re going to dive into this.
The entire purpose of what you’re about to read has nothing to do with trying to deflect blame away from Lance Stephenson. Rather, it has a lot more to do with actually assigning blame to other individuals on this team who Doc Rivers simply glosses over as being problem spots. There’s no exoneration taking place here. It’s on everyone. Every single player on the team does have to do better, especially on nights like last night when they were playing without Chris Paul and then lost J.J. Redick on the opening possession. If the team got blown out, perhaps you can sweep this under the rug. But they did not. They competed, kept it close, and had chances. Unfortunately, the head coach saw things a certain way and ran with that during his postgame press conference.
We’re not going to look at the offensive end of the floor. Why? Because Doc Rivers didn’t even mention it in regards to Stephenson. It was all about the defense. Sure, the Indiana Pacers only shot 42.1 percent for the game, and just 7-of-20 from beyond the arc, but it goes far beyond that. They attempted 39 free throws, shot 47.1 percent in the second half, and generally gave the Los Angeles Clippers fits because the good guys couldn’t contain anyone on the perimeter. The Pacers had 22 paint points in the second half alone after having just 12 in the first half. Not to mention that they attempted 25 free throws in the final 24 minutes. Some by way of hacking, but most were not. Indiana went 10-of-12 inside 8 feet in the second half, but just 6-of-22 outside of that. Maybe if people stopped guard penetration then this game could have taken a different turn. Anyways, roll the tape. Let’s do this.
We’re nearly five minutes into the first quarter when Monta Ellis hands the ball off to Ian Mahinmi roughly 30 feet from the basket. That’s when all hell breaks loose. Mahinmi simply dribbles around DeAndre Jordan for a layup that pushes the Indiana lead up to 9. There’s no exotic move here – there’s no crossover, there’s no hesitation dribble, there’s nothing but a simple drive after a handoff from 30 feet out by a center. The man who finished third in the league last year in Defensive Player of the Year voting let a true center beat him to the rim for a layup. Congratulations, DeAndre Jordan, you failed. But, don’t you worry about it, Doc Rivers didn’t publicly talk about how bad you were defensively. You played awesomely. No failures on your part. Keep it up, big guy!
Several minutes later we see Rodney Stuckey dribbling the ball across midcourt, and simply blowing right by Jamal Crawford for an uncontested layup. Sure, you can blame Josh Smith or Blake Griffin for not sprinting back even more into the paint to be a rim deterrent, but how does a professional player just let this happen on the perimeter? Stuckey just waltzes by him as if he’s passing by Crawford on the street. Disgraceful. But, don’t worry about it, Jamal. You did nothing wrong here, and Doc Rivers won’t call you out for it because you’re a perfect player.
To end the first quarter, we get more of Jamal Crawford making a mistake. The ball rotates to the left side of the court after Pablo Prigioni and Crawford swap defensive assignments. Crawford’s on Ellis, and Jordan Hill passes the ball off to Ellis in the right corner to initiate a pick-and-roll action. Ellis cuts to his right for a move, and Crawford simply goes right underneath the screen for some ungodly reason that no one knows. Ellis expertly cuts back to the left, rises up for an open jumper, and knocks it down. Jamal Crawford went under a screen on a good mid-range player for reasons only known to him. But, hey, you did just fine, Jamal. Played it perfectly. No way should you have gone over the top of the screen and forced Ellis towards the middle of the floor where help defense was. Nope. Job well done. Keep it up!
Late in the third quarter, we get Paul Pierce doing something stupid. The ball is on the right side of the court initially, but it works its way back to the left side after Monta Ellis passes out of a shot attempt. On this play, just watch Pierce. He’s guarding C.J. Miles on the left wing throughout the possession, and he simply just leaves Miles wide open for no reason. Yeah, that’s a guy who was only shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc coming into this game. No reason to close out on him or stick with him or anything like that. You played it perfectly. You played it with that veteran presence. You just knew he was going to miss the shot, and that’s why you didn’t even bother to hang with him. Smart move. I’m sure this won’t come back to haunt the team at all the rest of this game.
Oh, nevermind about this not coming back to haunt the team at all. I clearly lied. Final possession of the third quarter sees Rodney Stuckey try to get along the baseline against Josh Smith, but he has no shooting angle whatsoever after Wesley Johnson digs down to help out on the play. It takes away a passing lane underneath the hoop and a shooting angle on a reverse layup. Instead, Stuckey finds Miles open for three from the left wing because – and this will shock you – Paul Pierce left Miles wide open again! What is Pierce even looking at on this play? Why is he even digging down onto Jordan Hill? Why is he even leaving Miles in the first place? Know your personnel. You’re supposed to be a veteran, but you’re playing basketball like you just figured out how to tie your own shoes. No worries, though, Paul. You did nothing wrong here. Your defense wasn’t the problem. Nope. It was all Lance Stephenson. He must have left Miles open twice, not you.
Finally, we jump to the middle of the fourth quarter where Paul George simply abuses Luc Mbah a Moute off the dribble before finishing with a thunderous dunk. Mbah a Moute only plays because of his defensive ability. He doesn’t stretch the floor, he’s afraid to shoot open threes, and he occasionally crashes the glass. But he’s there for his defense. It wasn’t there last night. George throttled him repeatedly en route to an awesome performance that led Indiana to a victory. On this play, nothing elaborate happens. All George does is size Mbah a Moute up, and then accelerate right around him for a dunk. Way to stay in front of him. Lance Stephenson would have probably given up a 7-point play here so good job! You held George to 5 less points on this play than Lance would have. Kudos.
None of this was written to throw any of those guys under the bus individually, but rather to illustrate the point that Doc Rivers is clearly out of touch with what’s happening on the basketball court at this point in time. By throwing Lance Stephenson under the bus and saying that Lance didn’t have a "great defensive night" while other players on the team were being sieves defensively just shows that point. Doc is going to protect the veterans as much as possible without holding them accountable for their pathetic actions. And, let’s face it, this defense was pathetic last night. At some points it was good, but for a lot of the night it was a leaky faucet. It was not ideal.
The fact remains that Doc Rivers has a lot of growing up to do as a head coach, especially with this team. He threw Wesley Johnson under the bus several games ago, and he just did it again with Lance Stephenson despite Stephenson’s output last night. At a certain point, don’t you think some of the players in the locker room are going to get fed up and speak out? Stop playing favorites, Doc. Start holding the right people (read: everyone) accountable for their actions if they are playing poorly in a certain aspect of their game that night. Be fair. Be firm. Be something other than a blowhard who constantly alienates the new guys just to keep certain veterans – who have been terrible all year, mind you – happy. You’re losing whatever respect people had left for you by pulling this crap yet again. Congratulations. You earned it.