Posted November 15, 2012

Three-pointers: Clippers capitalize on Heat’s sinking defense

Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Dwyane Wade, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, LeBron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Ray Allen, Shane Battier

Chris Paul and the Clippers were able to consistently infiltrate the Heat defense. (Photo by Noah Graham/Getty Images)

By Rob Mahoney

After jostling with the Miami Heat for 35 minutes, the Los Angeles Clippers created separation down the stretch to win in a walk 107-100 on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Chris Paul closed the third quarter with 13 consecutive Clippers points and Eric Bledsoe opened the fourth with the team’s first eight points as L.A. pulled away for its fourth consecutive victory despite LeBron James’ 30 points. The Clippers shot 48.6 percent from the field and made 10-of-21 from three-point range, building an 11-point lead by the end of the third period and stretching it to 20 midway through the fourth.

• It’s going to take some time to grow accustomed to the notion of a Clippers team that is not only good defensively but also reasonably deep. Jamal Crawford has been scoring at an absurd rate off the bench all season, and on Wednesday he neared point-a-minute pace (22 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 24 minutes) with plenty of razzle-dazzle. Bledsoe is versatile and explosive, and he worked over Miami’s inattentive defense. When those two are part of a more functional reserve rotation that may soon include Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, the Clippers’ second unit will be the picture of ball-handling dynamism.

That opens up all kinds of opportunities for off-ball movement and matchup manipulation, some of which we saw to a lesser degree in Wednesday’s game. Miami made the costly mistake of lining up the injured Ray Allen opposite Bledsoe and saw the first line of its defense torched by Bledsoe’s dribble penetration, as well as its back line of defense compromised by the young Clipper’s work on the baseline. Sharing the floor with passers like Crawford and Lamar Odom (and, eventually, Hill and Billups) affords Bledsoe the chance to explore his complete offensive game and best play off the talents of his teammates. The mix of skills in Los Angeles’ second unit may seem odd at first glance, but there’s a fascinating potential embedded in their eventual configurations of impure point guards and pass-happy forwards.

• As good as the Clippers offense is, this game was only decided so quickly because of the Heat defense’s disarray. It wasn’t too long ago that Miami’s D was working on a string, but these days the Heat players have contorted themselves into a knot; their previously clean rotations now become far too easily tangled, due in no small part to the problems that a slowed Dwyane Wade and a hobbled Allen present for an overextended back line. James, Shane Battier and Chris Bosh are good in rotation, but giving up so much on the perimeter puts the defense at such a disadvantage that the Heat are collectively out of sorts. That will need to be rectified as the season unfurls, and until then, Miami might need to selectively lean on a few more traditional lineup variations in order to maintain its defensive integrity.

• Though built to thrive under the pressure of a win-now directive, the Clippers are nonetheless positioned to be an annual contender for years to come. Paul is more or less a complete product at this point, and a handful of other veterans in Los Angeles are similarly established within their own respective games. But Bledsoe, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan provide the Clippers with an invaluable upward mobility — a potential for growth that one can see manifested in bits at a time. None among those three players is quite ready to make some great leap in production, but each is demonstrating the kind of deliberate, detail-oriented growth that matures a team’s operation mid-stride.

For Bledsoe, it’s encouraging to see him do more controlled work with the ball in his hands. The third-year point guard has arguably done his best work in the past by being anything but a functional point guard, though this season has brought an added restraint without bogging down Bledsoe’s natural explosion. Griffin is still defined by all that he can’t do on the court, but the fact that he’s willing to address his weaknesses so directly — the hesitation in his spot-up shooting is almost completely gone — will help both him and the Clippers in the long run. Jordan’s most obvious flashes of improvement will come in the odd drop-step or hook shot, but his greatest advance has come in simply finding better ways to make himself available to receive passes. He’s learned to manipulate his timing on rolls to the rim, his placement within the orientation of the offense and his positioning on the glass in order to play a more consistent role in the offense. That doesn’t always translate to points scored, but it affords Jordan more opportunities than ever.

All of which is to say nothing of the notable gains in Jordan’s and Griffin’s ability to rotate and defend as a pair and better utilize their physical advantages in the thwarting of pick-and-roll sequences and blow-by drives. It’s all coming incrementally, and though the Clippers’ defense was more in need of an overhaul than modest gains, these hints of expansion have ultimately gone a long way in nudging Los Angeles toward defensive sufficiency.

3 comments
djp9
djp9 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The overreaching reaction of the Phil Jackson die hards never ceases to amaze me. Phil is as opportunistic a coach as there has ever been. His departure in Chicago, although not entirely his doing was PERFECT. His entrance in Chicago was perfect too. A lot of people forget that he was an ASSISTANT on that team when Collins was fired and how far Collins had already taken them. They also forget the previous championship teams of the Pistons, Celtics and Lakers were all on the downward slope at that point.(Magic & Bird retiring, Thomas starting to slow down) a Perfect con-flux for Phil. He got WHAT HE SHOULD HAVE out of that group, not more, not less. He is in the upper echelon of coaches but a miracle worker he is not. Krause assembled the most talented teams in the NBA during that run. Without Jordan though Phil couldn't get far. If he is as great as you think, he WOULD have won a championship without MJ. DIDN'T HAPPEN!!

In Laker Land they lost in '04 to the PISTONS (creamed more like it) so Phil leaves. The players took ALL the blame for that and he took virtually no heat for it. If he is the GOAT the way you think he is, his HALL OF FAME TEAM  should NEVER have gotten killed like that. He came back the next year and ended up going SIX YEARS between championships. And that was with Dr.Buss spending more than anyone except maybe the Knicks. During that period you had the Spurs winning multiple championships with less money. Phil is able to ACHIEVE to the level of what he has more often than most coaches, he has NEVER, I repeat NEVER overachieved with his teams. He is the rare coach however who can achieve to an expected level more often than not. Take a look at the talent in the West and I highly doubt he does any better than Vinny. He wouldn't ever take that job either because he is smart enough to know this. 

Stay Delusional my friend.

buckustoothnail
buckustoothnail

Now imagine Phil Jackson coaching this Clipper team. Can you say three-peat dynasties?!  Yes, as in PLURAL. As in Jordan-era BULLS. As in EXCEEDING Kobe's Laker run.  That's right. Vinny Del Negro is a good coach, but he's no Phil Jackson. With the Clippers, Jackson gets to stay in LA and irritate Jim Buss as a bonus.  Banners will be raised again at Staples Center, but instead of purple and gold they will be RED, WHITE and BLUE, America's colors!

AtotheTtotheHomas
AtotheTtotheHomas like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @buckustoothnail Yeah. I'm sure the Clips would be MUCH better off with chris paul playing the spot-up PG role in the triangle offense, which Phil would build around...Blake Griffin in the post???

 

All you dummies who don't know basketball impulsively associate Phil Jackson with "automatic championships" without realizing that he had ready-made teams for the triangle in the MJ Bulls and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers.

 

Del Negro brought the best out of DRose in his rookie year when the Bulls nearly took down the defending champ Celtics, and looks already like he's maximizing CP3's immense talent on this very impressive Clippers squad.