Every loss happens for a reason, and even though the Los Angeles Clippers did win 11 games in a row, their 110-100 defeat after an awful performance from Blake Griffin and the rest of the team on both ends of the floor, Doc Rivers has some things to figure out before we look at the Clippers as championship contenders again.
It’s one thing to lose, but it also depends on who you lose to. The Nuggets have been very bad in the second half of the season, and the fact that they made the Clippers look so bad on offense has to be slightly concerning. The Clippers shot only 39.1% from the field, while the Nuggets didn’t do much better: only 40.9%. However, they did grab 19 offensive rebounds and score 54 points in the paint, looking a lot like that Nuggets team that had such a dominant regular season in 2012-2013.
It was a big night for Ty Lawson with 19 points, 5 assists and 4 steals, while both Kenneth Faried (18 points, 16 rebounds) and J.J. Hickson coming off the bench (21 points, 11 rebounds) had plenty to be happy about. They kept attacking the basket, finding it quite easy with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin showcasing some of the worst defense and especially boxing out we’ve seen from them all season.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 29 points and 7 assists, but he also turned the ball over six times. Blake Griffin added 26 points to go with his 12 rebounds, but he was an awful 7-of-25 from the field, as the Clippers failed to play and move the ball as quickly as in previous games, shooting only 23.8% from beyond the arc, including an 0-for-5 from Reggie Bullock, who looked a lot more accurate 24 hours earlier playing on his birthday.
There’s no real reason to panic. After so many impressive wins, many of them coming through quite enjoyable basketball, it’s only natural that some sort of loss, even a very disappointing one, would be coming. The problem was it showed two issues the Clippers have made an emphasis to get rid of this season: Over reliance on Chris Paul creating for himself and others, and the inconsistency on defensive rotations.
It’s funny how bad games suddenly bring out the same old problems: Not making outside shots, not having decent replacements for the big players and Chris Paul all alone trying to do too much on his own. Griffin might have fallen in love with all the MVP stories and talk, making him try and play like a Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony. Yes, he’s made progress this season in pretty much every department, but there are things he should stick to instead of trying to invent himself a new playing style altogether.
The real lesson and harm of this game will be learned on the next time the Clippers take the floor, which will be after five days of rest, at home, against the Pistons. On paper, a must and possibly easy win, but if the same problems in preventing people from scoring in the paint and lazy thinking on offense come up, we’ll know the Clippers might be having an old problem(s) come up at the wrong time of the season.