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Clippings: The Clippers are addressing their second-half defensive woes

The Pacers and Kings saw a ramp-up instead of a drop-off in LA’s defensive effort after the break.

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers were favored to win both of their games this weekend, and handily at that, given how shorthanded the Pacers ended up being by the time the two teams met Sunday. Emerging with two victories isn’t impressive in and of itself, but the way the Clippers got the job done was.

In the third quarters against Sacramento and Indiana, the Clippers outscored their two opponents by a combined score of 76-36. Forty more points over 24 minutes.

That outcome was somewhat surprising considering the Clippers had been struggling in second halves. Prior to Friday’s game against the Kings, the Clippers had a defensive rating of 109.2 points allowed per 100 possessions in their first halves, good for 16th in the league. In the second half of the games, that defensive rating ballooned to 117.8, second-worst among the 30 NBA teams. Opposing teams were shooting 47.6 percent in second halves compared to 43.6 in the first 24 minutes.

There isn’t really a good reason for the team’s struggles in the final two quarters, especially since the Clippers’ offensive rating had actually been improving in the second half. When I asked Paul George for an explanation Friday, he said, “I don’t know. If we knew, that would have been something we would have addressed a long time ago.”

But the fact remains that it has been a problem, or at least was a problem before the Clippers seemingly flipped a switch over the weekend. After these two games, the Clippers’ second-half defensive rating is a perfectly reasonable 110.9, all the way up to 22nd in the league. That’s even considering they let their end-of-bench players finish out the wins because the margins were so lopsided.

“That’s been a big emphasis the last week or so, just our second half defense has been really bad, so we challenged our guys at halftime,” head coach Ty Lue said after the Sacramento win. “We’ve been talking about for the last week or so just about how we’re getting leads and teams are coming back, and it started with our defense. Teams are shooting a lot higher in the second half versus us.

“So we got to take the challenge, and I got to give our team credit, you know in that third quarter, we came out, we took the challenge, and we was able to hold them to 16 points, you know in a third quarter. So, that’s good for us, and we want to just continue to keep building on that and being better in the second half.”

The Clippers kept that positive momentum going against Indiana, and they’ll get a chance to repeat the feat tomorrow against Sacramento.

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