D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Clippers, Game 45
Previously, in the team formerly known as the Clippers of the East versus the team formerly known as the Wizards of the West… Chris Paul showed who was really the Point God (38 points, 12 assists, 11-11 free throws). Los Angeles won the first quarter in D.C. on December 14 by six points, the second quarter by seven points, and then coasted to a 16-point victory. John Wall countered Paul with 24 points and 12 assists of his own, but also added six turnovers (to just two for Paul).
The Wizards actually won their matchup against the Clippers last season in Washington (Feb. 4)… Caveat: Paul did not play and Griffin was a game-time scratch. About two weeks prior, in L.A. on Jan. 19, the Clippers, with Paul and the flopping physicality of Griffin, took down the Wizards in a close, seven-point game.
Now: Chris Paul is out with a separated shoulder (he says he plans to return around the All-Star break), but the Lob City industrial motor is still running nicely with nine wins in the 12 games since Paul went down (losses at San Antonio, at Indiana, and at Charlotte).
That Wizards win in the District almost a year ago is their only one against the Clippers in the last 10 meetings between these franchises. So, Washington’s got a lot of problems and getting over .500 is only one.
Also check: Some knowledge I dropped in a Clipper Blog pregame 3-on-3 session … If Chris Paul:John Stockton, then John Wall:[blank] ??
Otherwise, let us go, aka, LEGGO.
Teams: Wizards at Clippers
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Clippers fav’d by 8 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: What old guy is most likely to be on the Clippers come playoffs, Antawn Jamison or Hedo Turkoglu?
@andrewthehan: There are a couple of different ways to interpret this question: are the Clippers likely to cut either Jamison or Turkoglu? Not really. As it currently stands, L.A. is a smidge over the tax line. The only thing waiving either would accomplish is removing the ability to trade their nominal contracts.
Did someone say trade? I’m not entirely sure what the secondary market is on mid-2000s small forwards converted to small-ball 4s but if a buyer is out there, the Clippers may just have the fella you need!
Most likely this is a question of who will be left on the active roster come playoff time. I suppose it would be Turkoglu…? There’s been a bit of ambiguity all season with Jamison. At first, Rivers didn’t want to play him at all until the second half of the season. Then, the team, beset with injuries, thrust him into activity where he performed about as ably as one would expect.
But the recent decision to award Turkoglu a season-long contract rather than experimenting with 10-days—coupled with Jamison’s recent string of DNPs—suggests “Ball” stock is on the rise.
Q #2: The Clippers’ 73.1% free throw shooting ranks sixth-worst in the NBA (the Wizards aren’t much better, ranked seventh-worst at 73.3%).
Has this affected Doc Rivers’ late-game rotations, is he handling it differently than Vinny Del Negro did, and is free throw shooting something that will worry you come playoffs?
@andrewthehan: This is about DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, right? Oddly, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison are all shooting below their career free-throw percentages. And while Jordan has maintained his abysmal, sub-50 percent rating, Griffin is almost 10 percent higher than his previous three seasons (71.5 percent vs. 63.1 percent career).
But let’s be honest, the Clippers’ late-game rotations were never really about free throw concerns—Lamar Odom, Jordan’s end-of-game stand-in, shot 47.6 percent last season. It was about Del Negro’s lack of confidence in his big men. Did you know that by the last time the Clippers and Wizards met this season (Dec. 14), DeAndre Jordan had already played more fourth-quarter minutes in 25 games than he did all of last season?
Serious free throw concerns are a thing of the past in Clipperland. And if it arises in the playoffs? Doc has already shown a propensity to ambitiously substitute offensive and defensively in late-game situations.
Q #3: The Clippers are ranked 26th in the NBA in Defensive Rebound Percentage (72.8%).
Is that just what you take when you’re fourth in the NBA in fastbreak points per game (16.5), or is Lob City letting opponents get too many offensive boards (12.1 per game, fifth most in NBA) for Doc’s comfort?
@andrewthehan: It’s a problem, but not one without cause or solution. Chiefly, DeAndre Jordan is a spectacular rebounder. Fifth in the league in defensive rebounding rate, second in total rebounding rate, Jordan’s kind of been keeping Lob City’s rebounding numbers afloat.
And here’s the primary issue: the Clippers’ guard and wing rotation has been plagued by injuries all season. So L.A. now has reserves playing key minutes, it leads to a more porous perimeter defense, and Jordan is forced to commit to and challenge a lot of dribble penetration, pulling him out of rebounding position. Then those makeshift starting wings aren’t quite as disciplined in pinching down on bigs to help rebound.
Griffin has never been a particularly hungry defensive rebounder, and the prevalence of shooting power forwards and facilitation of transition offense (again, due to injuries) only pulls him further away from the defensive glass. It’s generally a cascading effect from injuries.
So in a nutshell? The bench is not very good at rebounding and they’ve been forced to play much more than the optimum amount.
Q #4: Has Blake Griffin’s game gotten to the next level? Or is he closer to the player he’s been known to be over the last year or so?
@andrewthehan: If he was known to be a dominant big man with a consistent, if ugly, post game, then he isn’t dramatically better than before. There are two key differences in Blake Griffin this year:
1.) He’s getting more minutes. His raw production numbers are up and people are raving how Griffin is “imposing his will.” But really, he’s been doing the same thing the past two seasons. The spectacle of the dunk was just too blinding for most casual Clipper viewers to notice.
2.) He’s worked on his free throws. As mentioned above, Blake Griffin is shooting nearly 10 percent better versus his career average. And that allows him to comfortably take more contact—his free throw rate is also up almost 10 percent from last season.
With Chris Paul out, the Clippers have not missed a beat, humming along to the tune of a 9-3 record [ed. note: they also won the game when Paul got hurt]. Griffin’s been the main instigator of the victories. With opponents liberally doubling him, the entire offense has been on his back, either through individual scoring or facilitating the ball.
Point being, if you thought he was good, yes, he’s still good. If you didn’t think he was good, watch the gamezzz.