This was a horrible, no-good, very-bad game, and not much needs to be said about it. The start to the game, while not great, wasn’t disastrous: the Clippers were moving the ball well on offense, and seemed to be playing with movement and energy. However, the danger signs were right there, too, as the Raptors got whatever they wanted on offense from the jump. As the first quarter went along, the Clippers’ offense slowed, turning into isolations and dead-end handoffs, allowing the Raptors to build a double-digit lead.
The second quarter brought some good tidings for the Clippers, as the brand-new Milos-Ty-Beverley-Scott-Harrell lineup played with more ferocity on both ends, particularly offense. Milos was in his element, nailing several threes and making a couple gorgeous no-look assists for layups. The Clippers cut into the Raptors lead, but could never get closer than six points. When the starters came back, the Raptors’ lead immediately ballooned again. The Raptors just looked quicker and more athletic, and Serge Ibaka destroyed the Clippers in the pick and roll, nailing jumper after jumper.
The third quarter, however, is where things got unhinged. The starters played with effort, yet it just wasn’t helping them on either end. On defense, the Clippers continued to falter in the pick and roll, allowing wide-open dunks and threes in a seemingly never-ending barrage. On offense, they failed to penetrate the paint, settling for contested jumpers that inevitably started Raptors’ fastbreaks. Soon, the Raptors lead was 25, and the bench was in for good at the 6:00 minute mark of the period. While the reserves did their best, they were no better at stopping the Raptors. The rest of the game was extended garbage time, with the Clippers getting no closer than 20 points, and remaining hapless on defense until the end. The Clippers fell 123-99 in what wasn’t the worst loss of the year, but might have been the most overwhelming.
- Nightmare performance: The Clippers were soundly outplayed tonight in just about every element of basketball. The sad part was that the effort mostly appeared to be there, and it didn’t matter. It’s hard to even take anything away from such a tremendous beatdown.
- Give Motley a chance: There’s no guarantee Johnathan Motley will be an NBA player. Plenty of guys have dominated in the G-League only to disappoint in the NBA. But the Clippers pretty obviously need a change of pace at center. Marcin Gortat is too slow, and too bad defensively, to start or play big minutes in the NBA today, despite the stuff he brings on offense. Boban is like Gortat, only more so. Montrezl Harrell is good, but he’s in a rut, and he’s too undersized to be a true defensive dynamo anyway. Motley is young, he’s fairly athletic, and he has decent size and length. Those are all things the Clippers need from their center. Whether Motley can actually bring production (and especially defense) is an open question, but he really needs to get a shot in the rotation sooner than later.
- Bench Avery Bradley: After a brief three-game stretch of offensive usefulness against the Kings, Mavs, and Pelicans a couple weeks ago, Bradley is slumping worse than ever. He was 0-6 from the field tonight and 0-3 from three, and his only positive contribution to the stat sheet was a single assist. Simply, he’s not giving the Clippers anything right now on offense, or really much at all besides pesky and somewhat effective defense on ball-handlers. If he was playing at a prime-Scottie Pippen level of defense it might be worth it to play him big minutes, but he’s not. He’s a merely solid defensive player who might be the worst offensive guard in the NBA (check his RPM numbers on ESPN and shriek), and he doesn’t deserve to start or play more than 15 minutes per game right now. Beverley has been abysmal offensively too, but he at least brings other things to the table besides defense, and I’d rather him start. Really, though, I think shaking things up and starting either Ty Wallace (for defense and slashing) or Milos (passing, shooting) could be interesting. It’s unfair to blame the Clippers’ struggles entirely on Bradley: it’s a team game, and they have a litany of other issues. But the Clips basically play 4 on 5 on offense with him out there, and it’s rough to watch.
- Run more offense through Shai: Shai wasn’t particularly great tonight (3-6 shooting for 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 22 minutes), but he’s the only Clippers’ guard who can consistently get into the paint off the dribble and make plays for others. The Clippers’ offense has stagnated in recent games, often resulting in passes around the perimeter that don’t create an advantage, ending in a tough, contested jumper. If Shai ran more true pick and rolls, it would be something new to throw at opponents, it would help him grow as a player, and it would honestly be a better option much of the time, letting him create off the dribble and make plays with his 6’6” height. There would be some growing pains, but the Clippers need a jolt, and having Shai stand in the corner off-ball is a waste of his talent.
The Clippers play in San Antonio on Thursday. The Spurs are a far cry from the bloodthirsty Raptors, but if the Clippers’ defense doesn’t improve, they will have a tough time winning that game either.