The Clippers’ offense is streaky. It’s prone to ponderousness. Passing activity ceases for long stretches and the players revert to unproductive hero-ball.
These are negative qualities. But when added to the Clippers’ unwillingness or inability (or whatever) to play something resembling effective defense, the resulting combination is fatal.
That’s how you lose nine in a row.
The Clippers couldn’t muster the defense necessary to compensate for their periods of offensive impotence, and the Knicks ran away with victory, 107-85.
Right now, the questions facing Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan are plentiful, and the answers number too few. Starting point guard and defensive stalwart Patrick Beverley returned from a two-game injury-related absence but couldn’t stem the cavalcade of badness that is quickly defining this team.
Every run of Clippers competence was answered and overcome by a Knicks counter. The Clippers sank 4 threes in the opening four minutes. An 8-0 Knicks run spoiled the rhythm. The young and novel bench mob brought energy that sparked a period of positive play straddling the first and second quarters. A 10-0 New York tide handled the uprising. A 15-0 Clipper riposte brought the game within 2 in the heart of the third quarter, but a 12-0 Knicks run ballooned to one of 17-2 and LA never saw the game again.
And, if there was ever a game to steal with B-grade stuff, this might have been one. The Knicks kept pace with the Clippers’ sloppiness with 14 first-half turnovers and 22 overall, and neither team succeeded in finding the painted area very often — the two squads combined to score fewer than 70 points inside.
This game was ugly, often boring, and the kind of sluggish, drawn-out affair that can spell trouble for the home team. New York monster Kristaps Porzingis scored “only” 25 points, converting just 2 of his 7 three-point attempts and 7 of 20 overall. Enes Kanter pulled down 6 offensive rebounds (16 overall) and exchanged them for just 12 total points. Tim Hardaway Jr. wasn’t a ball of hot fire. He scored a respectable 13 and missed all but one of his long tries.
The Clippers were simply worse. Porzingis’ arms stretched beyond the skyline and blotted out Blake Griffin. Blake scored 21 points but needed 17 shots to do it. DeAndre, Wes Johnson, and Willie Reed -- yes, Willie Reed -- were the only Clippers to achieve double digits in scoring, and each did it just barely. Lou Williams finally struggled, finishing with just 8 points and 2 assists.
Milos Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari may represent the fix, but the playoff threshold is galloping away while those two remain sidelined. In the meantime, the starters need to match the intensity of their reserves. For the first time in a long time, it’s the starting unit that’s failing to hold its end down. Blake, DeAndre, and Austin Rivers each finished worse than minus-20, with primary sub and complementary starter Lou WIlliams a team-worst minus-29.