All the talk of being one of the favorites in the Western Conference went to the heads of some Los Angeles Clippers players, who looked a lot less special and impressive, especially on defense, which was the team’s Achilles heel last season as well.
The surprising fact? It wasn’t DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin who were at fault for the defensive breakdown, allowing the Lakers 41 points in the fourth quarter. Defense is a collective effort, but the guards and their gambling on defense, especially Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, just couldn’t keep up with what the Lakers brought from the bench.
The Clippers did hold a lead at the end of the second quarter and the end of the third, hitting almost 59% of their field goal attempts. They did continue to hit quite well from beyond the arc, but their free throw shooting (56.5%, including an awful 3-of-10 for Blake Griffin), and the utter feeling of shock by the Lakers running up and down the court faster and harder than them led to a collapse in the fourth quarter, even against subs that aren’t held too highly in regard.
The Clippers bench disappointed as well, and last season, the team was at its best when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin didn’t even have to play in the final period. Jamal Crawford was quite effective as usual, scoring 15 points, but aside from him and Matt Barnes, no one from the bench played more than 12 minutes, including Darren Collison, who scored 9 points minutes and might hav deserved a bit more time playing next to Chris Paul, being one of the only two players that the Clippers scored more than the Lakers while he was on the court.
Blake Griffin led the way with 19 points, finding it quite easy to score in the paint. DeAndre Jordan was just as effective, adding 17 points and 11 rebounds. There wasn’t too much problem carving up the heart of the Lakers defense while the game wasn’t too wild and open, as the Clippers scored 48 points inside. But when the Lakers turned up the pace, the superior guards, on paper, that the Clippers have, simply didn’t react well.
Chris Paul did finish with 15 points, 11 assists and 5 steals, but his defense and decision making was atrocious late in the game. Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick combined for 3-of-9 from beyond the arc, but both of them made too many defensive mistakes. The same goes for Matt Barnes who played in the key moments for the Clippers, and was a big part of the collapse late in the game, bringing back the old criticism of the Clippers inability to remain disciplined and tight on defense in close games.
Good lesson for us. The good thing is we have 81 more games, the bad thing is everybody is going to play us that way. When you’re anointed before doing it people are going to attack you. And we’re going to have to get used to that type of energy every night.