It can be jarring to look at Clippers’ box scores on occasion and seeing how infrequently they score in the paint. At some points, it’s comical.
But the Clippers have made it clear this season that they aren’t terribly concerned with scoring in the paint. They definitely want to get into the paint, not necessarily to score, but to make the defense collapse, kick out, and then rain jump shots on their opponents.
“What it leads to is more important,” head coach Ty Lue said postgame about the paint attacks. “I think as long as we’re touching the paint and teams are going to help, being able to spray out for threes and like you said, we are number one in the league in catch and shoot threes right now, so we’re doing a good job of getting into the paint, and when teams are helping or overreacting, we’re doing a good job of spraying it out for threes, or we’re making a swing swing pass for a guy to make a shot as well, so we just got to continue to keep doing that, just take what the defense gives us.”
And the Pelicans willingly ceded the 3-point line in exchange for controlling the area near the basket. New Orleans outscored LA 52-20 on points in the paint (free throws aren’t included that number, so the true margin wasn’t that drastic), but the Pelicans allowed 37 mostly good 3-point attempts, of which the Clippers made 18. As Lue noted, the Clippers lead the league by shooting 44.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes, and they get 25 of those looks per game. Even if the team isn’t getting layups, surrendering open threes isn’t a better option for the defense.
The Clippers have been judicious about not just launching 3-pointers; they only take quality looks.
“We’re just moving the ball more,” Kawhi Leonard said. “We’re getting to our spacing, we know what passes are coming and it helps us, me and Paul (George), and Pat (Beverley), some of those core guys playing another year together. Just knowing where we want the ball, where we’re going to get double-teamed and we want to share.... Not wanting to take tough shots. If somebody on your team is open, give them the ball and it’ll get back to you. Once we’re passing, guys are making shots as well.”
In every Clipper game this season, the winner of the 3-point battle has won the game. That was the case once more against the Pelicans, when LA made 18 threes to 10 for New Orleans and earned the win, even if it was tighter than expected.
The Clippers don’t want to have to rely on jump shots to get victories. As George noted, they’d like to get out in transition more and run more early offense, both of which would naturally lead to more paint attempts. But they also aren’t complaining about the success of their halfcourt offense and the shots they’re able to create. The key is that those shots all stem from the Clippers touching the paint and attacking the basket.
“The paint attack is first and foremost,” George said. “A lot of our threes were set up from us driving to the paint and kicking it out. Paint first, spread out after we’ve done our job of attacking and seeing what we have at the rim, and make plays from there.”
It’s been a winning formula so far.
More news for Thursday:
- Now that James Harden is out of Houston, the next Rocket on the market could be P.J. Tucker. He would definitely fit on the Clippers, but does the team have the goods to trade for him?
- There’s lots of analysis about the trade itself: Zach Lowe has the complete picture.
- Over the past week, 16 players have tested positive for the coronavirus. The game-day testing schedule is changing.
- The NBPA cardiologist Dr. Michael Martinez spoke with Michael Pina about the heart-related effects of COVID-19 on the players. It’s actually somewhat reassuring.
- Something that isn’t so reassuring is the lingering gap in the league’s updated COVID protocols. Seerat Sohi explains.
- Rohan Nadkarni makes an interesting case that this NBA season merely feels like a bridge until normalcy returns in 2021-22.