This one was ugly from start to finish. The Clippers started the game lethargically on both ends of the court, and outside of some decent stretches of defense, didn’t look right for the rest of the game. They held their own for most of the 1st quarter, bolstered by some nice energy off the bench from Sindarius Thornwell and Wes Johnson. The second quarter was definitely the best for the Clippers on the evening, as they outscored the Pistons 31-18. A lot of that was improved defense, but it was also just the Pistons missing shots—their bench was ice cold. Blake Griffin was unstoppable for much of the quarter, attacking the slower Pistons’ bigs off the dribble over and over again. However, Stan found a solution late with veteran big Anthony Tolliver (more on him later), who didn’t give Blake an inch in the post and was able to hang with him on the perimeter. Nonetheless, hot outside shooting by Austin Rivers (6-8 from downtown on the night) ensured the Clippers were up double digits heading into halftime.
Things went downhill from there. The Clippers were up by 70-57 towards the back half of the 3rd quarter, but didn’t really look good doing so. The Pistons were missing shots, and the Clippers were able to hit just enough three pointers to scrape by. Their offense slowed to isolations and post-ups, which the Pistons were easily able to defend. The Clippers turned to their bench for activity, and they were rewarded: Wes and Sindarius once more provided a boost, grabbing offensive boards and making putbacks. However, they also bricked open 3s, and the Clippers’ inability to hit outside shots, which had been their only saving grace earlier in the game, doomed them. The Pistons pushed the pace relentlessly after Clippers’ misses, finding wide-open shots time and again. Langston Galloway and Tolliver were particularly effective, draining threes on one end and stopping the Clips in their tracks on the other.
The Pistons were soon ahead, and their lead slowly grew as the 4th quarter dragged along. The Clippers’ offense continued to stagnate, and possessions came up empty far more frequently than not. They never really made a push to get back on top, ending the game with a whimper rather than a bang. Danilo Gallinari in particular will look back on the last few minutes with disappointment, as he rimmed a dunk attempt and then missed an open three the Clips were able to get out of a timeout. And, with that, the game was mercifully over.
Clippers’ Offense Horrifies:
The Clippers shot 33.3% from the field tonight. The Pistons played good defense, no doubt, especially Tolliver and Andre Drummond, but the Clippers’ offensive execution was horrid the entire length of the game. They didn’t move the ball well at all, and were careless when they did make passes (18 turnovers). Instead of running plays and executing an offense, they resorted to isolation ball, with the main culprits being Blake, Gallo, and Lou. It would be one thing if any of them were scoring with ease against their man, but none of them were. It was boring, predictable, bad offense, especially in the second half, and open looks dried up as a result. The key to it all was Tolliver’s defense on Blake. Once the Clippers couldn’t go to Blake for a reliable bucket or free throws, they didn’t seem to know what to do. The result was a lot of dribbling, turnovers, and contested shots. It was a bad, bad night for them on the offensive end of the floor. Doc will surely be showing the Clips tape of this game for the rest of the season as video evidence of what not to do on offense. The Clippers must figure out a way to run their offense if Blake is having a rough night or facing a tough matchup. He’s their best player, but they can’t be solely reliant on him to create easy shots.
Doc Keeps the Expanded Rotation:
Doc played a 10-man rotation once again tonight, though Dekker only received three short minutes. Thornwell got nine minutes, and was less effective than he was against the Blazers. He had a nice offensive board and putback, but also bricked an open 3 and blew a layup attempt in transition. His defense was high energy and mostly solid, though he was beaten backdoor rather badly in the first half by Bradley. Doc should keep giving him minutes, but I think that rather than playing Dekker scraps, he should instead turn to the Clips’ other rookie, Jawun Evans. Patrick Beverley is simply playing too many minutes (37 tonight, after 42 last game), and neither Lou nor Austin is a true point guard. That was clearly evident tonight when Lou was running the offense—he’s actually not a bad passer, nor does he never look for the pass, but he’s shoot-first, and scoring is what he does best. Evans is a legit point guard, and while he will certainly have some issues in adjusting to the NBA, there is at least a hope of him being able to run offensive sets consistently. Doc should certainly have a quick hook with Jawun if he struggles, but I think he deserves a shot to play real minutes.
Gallinari Continues to Struggle:
Gallo entered the game shooting 31.4% from the field and 23.8% from three, which is awful. He didn’t fare any better tonight, shooting 4-16 from the field and 3-10 from three. He’s getting mostly open looks, just not converting on them, and it has to be driving him crazy. This game was particularly bad, as several of the shots he missed could have really changed the momentum of the game. His defense has also been mostly average—he isn’t a sieve out there, but he isn’t really stopping anyone either.
Austin Rivers Has Himself a Night:
Austin was one of only two Clippers to not have a negative +/- (Wes was the other, with a plus four) against the Pistons, as he came out a net neutral. He scored 20 points on 12 shots—he hit 6 of his 8 three pointers, and drained both free throws. He also produced four steals, and played good defense on Avery Bradley, who can be an effective scorer. Austin probably should have received the ball a bit more tonight, and it’s a shame he didn’t have a truly explosive game on a night where it looked like every shot he took was going in.
This was not a fun game to watch, especially as a Clippers’ fan. They didn’t play well, didn’t play smart, and produced a truly hideous effort on offense. The Pistons are a fine team (they are now 4-2), but they certainly aren’t great, and are not exactly stocked with defensive talents. The Clippers’ failure to get anything going on offense is not a good sign going forward. Keep an eye on ball movement and passing in games to come.
The Clippers get the pleasure of hosting the Golden State Warriors at home on Monday night. The days of a true rivalry might be over, but the Warriors will probably still come out the gates strong against the Clips. If the Clippers play like they did tonight, they are going to lose by at least 30 points against the Dubs.