Fog City vs. Smog City

by jon lee

As a Clipper fan, I had a feeling we were going to get stomped on in Oracle Arena.  It’s still early in the season, but the Clippers have been suspect throughout the preseason and through the beginning of the regular season.  Sure we miss Collison, sure we're still missing an athletic 3 (despite Reggie Bullock looking good), sure this is our 5th game in 7 days, sure the Warriors played terrific.  And if you think it had something to do with our former assistant coach Alvin Gentry joining the Warriors coaching staff, I’ll even give you that. But the real question is, what’s going on in Smog City?

Not to take anything away from the Warriors (no flex). They're good, and they know it... It shows in their confidence and intensity. But I'm not here to marvel at how good the Warriors looked. I'll leave that up to the Bay Area. I want to focus on two things I took away from the Clippers-Warriors game.  

On Offense

When Bogut is in the game, we need to force him out of the paint.  There’s no use in having DeAndre Jordan at the top of the key holding the ball when Bogut’s not even within arm’s distance.  I'd much rather have DJ running the baseline post so that when someone penetrates, if Bogut collapses or commits to being the last line of defense, DeAndre can be in position to dive to the basket to crash the boards or have an opportunity for Ralph Lawler to say, "the lob.... the jam!"

I like it when DeAndre sets a high screen for players who catch the ball in the corners. This gives wing players like Crawford, Barnes, and Redick the option to dribble off the screen and penetrate, drawing the big man’s attention and leaving DeAndre open to roll baseline to the hoop.

With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, the Clippers had a lineup consisting of Griffin, Farmar, Hawes, Paul and Crawford. This is the lineup I really wanted to see against Bogut, who was cheating off DeAndre throughout the entire game. However, at this point, it was hard to judge the lineup due to the amount of whistles coupled with the fact that both teams were in the bonus. 

Nonetheless, I would like to see Doc deploy more lineups that include Blake and Spencer in order to space the floor.  In order to force a player like Bogut to actually guard a player rather than the paint (at times, it looked like the Warriors were essentially playing a 2-3 zone with Bogut as the centerpiece).  Our defense will take a hit, but we have to force teams to make adjustments rather than letting them stick to their game plan.  I have yet to see Doc use Blake and Hawes in the right system.  So far I’ve seen Hawes space the floor in order to isolate Blake in the paint. No question is this a great play.

However, against a team like the Warriors, our divisional rival and a team representative of how good the West is, why not use Hawes to space the floor and run a pick and roll with Blake?  A lineup of CP3, Crawford, Barnes, Blake and Hawes should be pretty unstoppable offensively.  With off-ball screens that lead into a Blake-CP3 pick and roll and Hawes posted in the corner for a three ball, I don’t see how the Warriors could have defended the Clippers tonight. Just imagine it…  Barnes sets an off-ball screen to free up Blake, Blake flashes to the high post to set a screen for CP, CP comes off the Blake screen and has options… Blake gets the ball on the pop or the roll, he has options…  Blake kicks it out to Hawes, shoot or swing it to Redick, shoot or swing it to Barnes, shoot or swing it back to CP...  The key thing here is ball movement, floor spacing, and creating matchup nightmares for a team like the Warriors. Granted this is a “make or miss league,” as Doc Rivers likes to say, and right now we are in the miss category. All our perimeter players have been ice cold from three-point range, especially (and surprisingly) J.J. Redick.  However, the shooting numbers should normalize as the season goes on.

On Defense

We need to settle down. Our rotations are too complex for a lineup that includes Bogut, who is not much of a threat outside of 10 feet.

We are blitzing on every pick and roll, which leaves the rest of the floor in a scramble. The margin for error is much smaller within this system, and if we aren't executing our rotations, this defense looks horrible. That isn't to say the Clippers shouldn't defend teams with this scheme.  I actually believe in the blitz, trap, and rotate defense; I like the potential inherent in this system. I just don't think it’s appropriate against a team like the Warriors, at least not tonight.

I'd rather see us play a down-type defense (a defensive scheme against the pick and roll that attempts to force the ball-handler baseline, usually towards a strong rim protector), against a great shooting team like the Warriors. This scheme takes advantage of the Warrior’s absence of a post threat with Bogut’s limited offensive repertoire, especially with David Lee out. DJ would essentially be holding down the fort while the rest of Clippers’ defense is responsible for staying in front of their man, playing simple solid fundamental defense. Against a sharp shooting team led by a true point guard with great passing and floor spacing like the Warriors, I would rather see us defend the team straight up with DJ or Hawes cheating and hovering around the paint, or hedging and showing against the pick and roll and recovering to their primary defensive role: protect the rim and guard the paint.

Let’s be honest...  On any given night, the Splash Brothers are the only players who can stop the Splash Brothers.  They are virtually impossible to guard.  However, the defensive strategy I've laid out limits other players’ contributions and makes it really tough for the Warriors to attack the rim.  The idea is that the Warriors would be taking tougher shots and more contested jump shots.

Oh, and if you’re still reading this... I like Jared Cunningham.  The dude looks great on defense and he’s the most athletic guard we've seen since Eric Bledsoe left for the Suns.