Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Clippers Achilles Heel

In a game as competitive and as well-played as Game 3 of Clippers/Thunder, every possession is important and every part of the game is crunch time. You can lose a game like that at almost any stretch of the 48 minutes. For the Clippers, one weakness jumped off the screen on Friday- when DeAndre Jordan was on the bench and Glen "Big Baby" Davis was operating as the backup 5.

If we're being honest, his real nickname should be something like Fatty McGoo. He's listed at 6'9 290, but he's easily pushing 300 pounds and he just cannot move his feet at an acceptable level on the defensive end of the floor. He doesn't have much length either, which means it's open season at the front of the rim when he's in. In the 11 minutes he played, LA was -12, a huge number in a game this close.

Reggie Jackson went bananas in the second quarter, scoring 6 points on 3-4 shooting. He just put his head down and went right to the front of the rim, knowing that Davis could do nothing as the second line of defense. His only resort is to take a lot of fouls - he had 4 personal fouls in his time on the floor, which went a long way towards putting OKC in the penalty in the second quarter.

Compounding the problem is the Clippers lack of perimeter defenders on the second unit - there isn't a stopper among Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford and Jared Dudley. As a result, even with the Thunder giving away possessions by playing Caron Butler and Derek Fisher, the Clippers second unit was still bleeding points. They gave away the 4 point lead they had at the end of the 3Q in 4 minutes in the 4rth.

Davis doesn't offer much on the offensive end of the floor either. He's a decent mid-range shooter, but he can't shoot 3's and he has trouble finishing around the rim, given the lack of lift in his legs. He's a good passer and he's prety skilled, but he's just being exposed at this level of the game. He was the 4rth big man on the Celtics 2008 championship team for a reason - PJ Brown just brought a lot more to the table.

At the very highest levels of the game, the difference between winning and losing is razor thin. Going back to 2010, I thought Kendrick Perkins tearing his ACL helped swing the NBA Finals to the Lakers because it exposed Davis lack of defense in Game 7. If you take a possession-by-possession look at that game, you see him killing the Celtics in the fourth quarter because of his lack of defense.

Davis' ineffectiveness means Jordan doesn't get nearly the rest he needs and Griffin basically can't come off the floor in the second half. Considering how hard those two are playing and the level of physicality in the paint, that could really wear them down as this series goes on. Every championship team needs at least three big men and right now, it looks like the Clippers are one short.

It may not end up costing them in this series, since OKC has its own problems on their second unit. However, whether it's in the second round or the Conference Finals or even the NBA Finals, at some point having Glen Davis as their third big man is going to cost LA. Every minute matters in the playoffs and every minute he is on the floor, he is a weakness waiting to be exploited.

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