From The Other Side: One of Those Good Problems for the Clippers
Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use our access to explore what is going on with the opposing team the Wizards are facing. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on how the Los Angeles Clippers coped with their 117-110 loss to the Washington Wizards.
[Image Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports]
“Listen, our record is 20-8. We’re pretty good.” —Los Angeles Clippers Coach Doc Rivers
When you’re a team like the Wizards and you’re 12-14 (but 6-2 over eight games after beating L.A. last Sunday), not only do losses feel like the sky is falling, but a respectable win over a good team like the Clippers, only provokes a slight amount of joy.
As Marcin Gortat said after that Clippers contest, “Well, this game doesn’t count if we don’t follow up tomorrow with a win. Obviously, if we go out tomorrow and we lose the game, that’s not going to look good. We have to start winning games. We have to start winning games, building streaks, and hopefully that’s what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
The Wizards ended up losing that next night to the Indiana Pacers, 107-105 on a missed 3-pointer by Bradley Beal at the buzzer. It was a close loss on the road on the second night of a back-to-back (the Wizards are 1-5 on the second leg of back to backs this season), and they played hard for all four quarters, but it was a loss nonetheless, which by Gortat’s definition, means the win against the Clippers does not count.
When you’re a pretty good team with a 20-8 record, like the Los Angeles Clippers had after losing to the Wizards, the mood of the locker room is quite different. The coach provides perspective on what went wrong, the team’s point guard takes responsibility, and there isn’t a scintilla of panic anywhere (of course, this was before it was announced the Blake Griffin would miss 3-6 weeks wiith arthroscopic knee surgery).
The Clippers lost due to their inability to stop Washington from scoring in the second half (when the Wizards scored 65 of their 117 points), and their failure to stop Bradley Beal (41 points) from scoring at will. The Clippers led 55-52 after one half, and fueled by eight quick points from JJ Redick, they led by 11 points just four minutes into the third quarter. Then Beal scored 11 points as the Wizards went on a 17-8 run of their own to cut into the Clippers’ lead. Both teams continued to go back and forth the remainder of the third quarter and up until the 3:15 mark of the fourth quarter. Then the Wizards began to gradually pull away.
Los Angeles began to miss the shots they had previously been hitting, they turned the ball over during three crucial possessions, and Markieff Morris shrugged off foul trouble to hit two tough shots right in Blake Griffin’s face. To make matter worse, Doc Rivers was thrown out of the game with 1:06 left, and when Beal hit the two free throws, the game went from winnable to just out of reach for the Clippers. As Rivers said after the game, the Wizards smelled “blood in the water” and were on the attack, and his team did not have an answer.
Prior to the loss, the Clippers had won four straight games, including two on the road, to teams with inferior records. The first was a 28-point blowout win against the Pelicans and then the next three victories were a 121-120 victory at home over Portland, a 113-108 victory in Orlando, then a 102-98 victory in Miami. Rivers sounded happy with those wins, but he also recognized that his team’s play would eventually result in a loss like the one to the Wizards. Still, at the time, he didn’t sound like a man who was too worried about his team’s future prognosis.
Redick, who scored 17 points and provided the Verizon Center with some entertaining moments by trading baskets with Beal in the third quarter (when he had 12 to Beal’s 18), also did his best long-winded impression of the Aaron Rodgers R-E-L-A-X speech—particularly as it related to the Clippers defense down the stretch:
“We have a long time to sort of figure things out. There’s a lot of good teams across the league that are still figuring things out. You’re just going to have stretches like this. It’s unfortunate but we know that we’re better than this. If there’s something where we were doing a system, or doing a strategy defensively that has never worked I would be a little more worried but this has worked. Our defense has worked. We were top five last year and for most of the beginning of the year we were the number one defensive team in the league.”
When it came to defending Beal, the Clippers simply had no answer. Redick, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Austin Rivers all attempted to slow him down, but to no avail. Rivers said he told his son Austin to stop Beal, and the younger Rivers told his father, “He’s on fire!” Even Paul, who blamed the loss on his team’s lack of defensive confidence, relaxed on the self-wallowing just long enough to genuflect to Mr. Beal:
“Brad looked like a totally different person. A lot more aggressive. This is the Bradley Beal he should be all the time. Tonight he was aggressive, which, in order for this team to be as good as they want to be, he has to be like that.”
It is worth noting that Rivers and Paul may be onto something with their light criticism of the Clippers defense. Beal was in a total comfort zone and navigated to any and every spot he wanted to on the floor en route to those 41 points. Conversely, Monday night against the Pacers, Beal seemed headed to another fast start with 10 first quarter points. Then Paul George switched onto him for a spell, and his defense (combined with Beal’s foul trouble) was enough to slow the Wizards’ momentum and allow the Pacers to get back into the game. The Pacers were 14-14 (hoping to climb back above .500), they were at home, and they possess a lockdown defender in George. The Clippers were playing the last game of a three-game road trip they had already gone 2-0 on, and they were defeated by a player in who had a career night (Beal) and another player (Markieff Morris) who caught fire in the second half and scored more in that game (23) than he had in nearly a month.
That’s what you call one of those good kind of problems, I suppose.
Doc Rivers explains why he got ejected:
— Ledell's Place (@LedellsPlace) December 18, 2016
After he finished taking the blame for his team’s loss and praising Bradley Beal, Chris Paul talked to David Aldridge at length about his role in the new tenative CBA agreement, and about what it meant to come to an agreement sans any acrimony or loss of games. Mr. Aldridge wrote about this in his weekly Morning Tip column, but this snippet was particularly poignant:
“The coolest part to me has been traveling to these road arenas, the former players that are broadcasters and stuff like that, coming up and saying ‘thank you.’ I always tell them, too, ‘Not me, it’s the players that made this happen.’ And it’s huge. You’ve got a family. You know how big that is.”
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