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.
More news for Tuesday:
- Shane Young has the definite piece on how the Clippers offense has been so unstoppable thus far.
- With some NBA players getting reinfected with COVID-19, The Wall Street Journal looked into how the NBA should handle contact tracing for players who have some level of immunity.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is in a new PSA for the NBA and the COVID-19 vaccine.
- The NBA is considering adding an 18th roster spot in the form of a third two-way contract as more and more players have to sit out due to positive tests or contact tracing, but teams aren’t sure that will solve all their problems.
- Teams and executives have a lot of mixed feelings about the new regulations. There’s a detail in here about travel this year that is a little unsettling.
- NBA players talk to ESPN about what Martin Luther King Jr. Day means to them after a year with social justice issues at the forefront. Here is a Clipper-specific reflection.
- The Atlanta Hawks wore MLK’s name on their jerseys. Here’s the story of how those uniforms came to be.
- Louisa Thomas examined what the Brooklyn Nets mean to the NBA in this moment.
- Yasmin Duale expressed some sympathy for Kyrie Irving’s current predicament.
- Seerat Sohi analyzed Draymond Green’s influence on a generation of undersized NBA players. This one is excellent.
- Nekias Duncan created a new scale for ranking dunks so that every highlight dunk isn’t just a poster dunk.