Bubble Ball: Assessing the Clippers One Game In
Bubble Ball: Assessing the Clippers one game in
BASKETBALL. IS. BACK!!!!!
A little over four months since the NBA shut down - and Rudy Gobert inadvertently saved thousands of lives by being an absolute clown - the best sports league in the world returned with a pair of excellent games on Thursday night.
Since I couldn’t cover my beloved Boston Celtics for the bubble without letting my inner Tommy Heinsohn take over, I chose instead to focus on one of the NBA’s most interesting teams and surefire contenders, the Los Angeles Clippers. They kicked off the restart with a close but losing tilt against the crosstown (bubble?) Lakers.
Each Clippers game I will be doing short form breakdowns, with three things for Clippers fans to be optimistic about, three things to be concerned about, and one question leaving the game.
Based on the way LAC looked last night, I have a feeling I will have plenty to write about. So without further ado, let’s recap what we saw from the big little brother, grown up and ready for a deep playoff run.
3 Good Things:
1. The Dynamic Duo, deep in the utility belt.
Clippers fans should not be too upset about Thursday’s loss. While it’s tough to take the L to your archrival, there’s a lot of comfort in how good Paul George and Kawhi Leonard looked.
After a rocky start, Kawhi hunkered down and grinded his way to 28 points to go with three rebounds, four assists. The Klaw also brought along his always rugged defense to the tune of two steals and two blocks.
Perhaps most promising, Kawhi got to the line seemingly at will, going 11-13 from the charity stripe. His footwork looked rock solid, and even though it was something of an off shooting night, Kawhi found a way to get his.
Not to be outdone, his co-star Paul George looked to be in postseason form, going 6-11 from deep, hitting multiple clutch shots down the stretch. George looked healthy, fast, and in control.
The Clippers couldn’t come away with a victory in the end, but the two superstars lived up to the challenge, and as long as they are on the floor the Clippers will be in every game.
2. Reggie Jackson, sparkplug.
He didn’t have a great shooting night, but Reggie Jackson looked comfortable getting starters minutes with Patrick Beverly restricted coming off an injury and Lou Williams absent. When Jackson was on the court the Clippers got faster and more dangerous in the open court. Reggie also made his presence felt on the boards and chalked up four assists as well.
Jackson will not be getting the same run that he got in this game once the Clippers roster is back at full strength, but in short bursts he can provide a much needed speed infusion to what is otherwise a fairly slow roster, and defenses can’t afford to take naps like on the play below.
Shamet comes in for the brush screen before Caruso knows what’s happening, and at that point there is nothing the Lakers can do. The top-heavy Clippers need easy offense like this wherever they can get it.
Stills pulled from MLG highlights youtube channel: Los Angeles Lakers vs LA Clippers Full Game Highlights | July 30 | NBA Restart
3. Jamychal Green, playable
Green looked capable, logging 29 minutes off the bench for the Clippers and playing during crunch time as a small ball five. While he only scored 8 points, he did chip in four big rebounds and went 50 percent from deep.
The journeyman provided invaluable spacing for a Clippers offense that couldn’t find much room to operate against the Lakers' sea of arms, and held his own defensively against a supercharged Anthony Davis.
Green is streaky and there are times when he will brick himself out of the rotation, but if he can emerge as a dependable stretch five off the bench that would be a significant addition that would give Doc Rivers even more frisky lineups to deploy in a playoff series.
3 Not as Good Things
1. Frontcourt woes, thicc and thin
The Clippers sorely missed Montrezl Harrell in this game. Anthony Davis looked like a shark in a pond full of chum against the Clips depleted frontcourt, exploding for 34 points with eight rebounds and four assists ,and punishing the Clippers over and over again at the line. Ivica Zubac embarrassingly blew an open dunk and ended the night -5 with a paltry two points and three rebounds. He will need to play his way into shape over the course of these regular season games, last night’s effort will not cut it against the elite centers of the west.
Perhaps more troubling, Marcus Morris missed every one of his four shots and looked over matched all game. For a man long advertised as a Lebron stopper, he sure has trouble with...stopping Lebron. Joakim Noah looked decent for someone who hasn’t played in a year, but if he’s playing heavy minutes the Clippers are in trouble.
Much of this will be alleviated with the return of Harrell, but the Clippers big men will need to make some adjustments or else AD will go right back to eating when these teams square off next.
2. Landry Shamet, MIA
The Clippers fifth starter was a brutal 1-8 and 0-5 from deep. He finished the game a dismal -19 plus minus. For a team that needs as much extra shooting as they can get, these kinds of performances from Shamet simply will not cut it. He was reliably getting overpowered or just flat out cooked on the defensive end, spending much of his evening getting rocked by the overpowering philly cheese of Dion Waiters.
If Shamet can’t hit threes and can’t stay in front of his man, it might be time for head coach Doc Rivers to look elsewhere for his starting two-guard, especially with Reggie Jackson looking more comfortable and Lou Will returning to the bench in coming contests.
3. Turnovers Galore
This game was at times extremely sloppy for both sides. My personal nemesis Scott Foster made sure to frustrate both teams with a series of ticky-tack fouls in the first half, preventing either team from getting rhythm. As a result of this ragged, uneven play (as well as some stifling Laker defense, to be fair), the Clippers ended up with 20 turnovers.
George and Leonard were the only players who really looked comfortable with the ball, maybe Jackson if we’re being generous. A series of errant, forced passes and mental mistakes (as well as some poorly timed missed free throws) ultimately proved to be the difference in this tight battle.
I have some faith that the Clippers will knock the rust off and clean this up, and having Lou Williams back in the lineup will add that third ball handler that the Clippers bench desperately needs. But for a team with championship aspirations, 20 turnovers is something they can ill afford when the stakes get high.
The big question: Who are Doc’s back four?
In the playoffs, rotations inevitably tighten and the best players earn the most run. I know who the Clippers top-four guys are. I trust Kawhi, PG, Lou, and Trez to get the job done when it is needed. But I still don’t know who the next four guys are for the Clippers, and Doc Rivers needs to have that set by the time the games get serious.
LAC has a little time, and I don’t think one close game against a very good Lakers squad is ultimately too much cause for concern. But Doc does need to whittle down the remaining Clippers to four guys that he knows he can ride or die with in the playoffs. I suspect Reggie Jackson and Patrick Beverly will be on that list, but only time will tell.