Saturday, November 14, 2015

Clippers vs. Pistons

Both teams seemed like they had heavy legs in this one. The Clippers didn't have their starting backcourt and were playing their 3rd game in 4 days while the Pistons were on the 5th game of a West Coast road trip that began a week ago. We're starting to get past the initial rush of excitement of the first few weeks and into the meat of the season where teams are playing too many games in too short a span of time and picking up schedule losses. The Clippers really wanted this one, which you can see from Blake Griffin playing 42 minutes.
  • This was a tour-de-force from Blake - 4 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds on 25 shots. They went Point Blake in the 2nd half and pretty much all their offense came off Blake creating shots or Jamal Crawford running off screens from Blake. He has taken his game to an even higher level this season and he's right there in the MVP race with Steph Curry. He's 26 years old and he's in the sweet spot where his knowledge of the game is at an all-time high and he still has the athleticism when he needs it. We're looking at Peak Blake Griffin and it is fun to watch.
    • Blake can do pretty much everything on offense but I like him more when he's facing up from 20+ feet and taking guys off the dribble as opposed to trying to bully guys on the block and backing into them 3-4x in a row. That works when he has a guard switched on him but he's not great at it against 6'8+ guys because his T-Rex arms make it difficult for him to finish over the top of people in traffic. 
    • You are also seeing Blake benefit from the league-wide trend to getting smaller at the 4 position, whether it's playing stretch 4's like Ersan Ilyasova or small-ball 4's like Marcus Morris. For the most part, teams are willing to live with bigger 4's trying to take advantage of smaller defenders and Blake is the rare exception whose talented enough to really punish you with that mismatch. It's the same reason that tall 2 guards like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can take advantage of the growing number of 2-PG line-ups around the league.
    • This game made the case for why Doc Rivers should be staggering his line-ups more and letting Blake and CP3 play without each other over the course of the game. This might be a little too extreme but I'd almost want to have it where you have one of Blake or CP3 in at all times. Both guys are just so good with the ball in their hands that you want to maximize their skill-set by running everything through them for as many stretches of the game as possible.
    • A good example of that was their loss to the Mavs on Wednesday. The 4-5 pick-and-roll absolutely devastates the Mavs because of Dirk's inability to guard (it pretty much single-handedly beat them in their first round loss to the Rockets last season) and the Clippers almost never went to it because they have so many other options on their first unit. Redistribute possessions over the course of the game so you have fewer with Blake doing nothing off the ball and fewer with some of the jokers on the 2nd unit throwing up nonsense.
  • As a Mavs fan, it's hard to watch DeAndre Jordan go up against Andre Drummond and wonder what type of numbers DAJ could have put up in a similar system in Dallas. Drummond doesn't even have to play well to walk into 15-15 type games in Detroit and it would have been the same thing with DAJ in Dallas given how much space Dirk would have given him, how few rebounds Dirk grabs and how many P/R guards the Mavs have on their roster. At the end of the day, though, I can't blame DAJ for staying because who passes up on the chance to play with a guy like Blake Griffin in the prime of his career.
  • This was a throwback game for Jamal Crawford, who got a lot more chances to play with the ball in his hands and to play off of Blake than he would if the Clips had their normal rotations. There are few guys in the league who are more fun to watch cooking than Jamal. 
  • Paul Pierce got the nod as the starting 3, which really shows you the biggest problem the Clips are going to have this season. There's just no way that's going to work when the games start to get serious. He was never all that fast and now he couldn't be slower. You can't seriously expect Pierce to guard Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard or really any of the wings on the Warriors roster. Doc Rivers is going to have to figure something out because the Lance Lance Revolution experiment (as my boy Hollywood Cole calls him) has already fizzled out and Pierce is basically ambling around the court these days. I'm not sure he can even sprint anymore or whether brisk jog is his highest speed setting.
  • As someone who has always been a big Lance guy, it hurts my heart to watch him in LA. Stanley Johnson stole the ball from him and then dropped a 3 on him in consecutive possessions and Doc pulled him for the rest of the game. He needs to be able to freelance in space and that's not going to happen on a first unit with Blake and DAJ upfront and it's going to be difficult for him to get a lot of touches on the 2nd unit playing next to Crawford and Rivers. Doc seems to value shot-creation a lot more than defense and ball moving when it comes to signing players and that may definitely will come back to bite the Clips at some point in the playoffs.
    • The sad part is that Lance would have thrived in Indiana's new 4-out system in the Monta Ellis non-shooter role. In an alternate world, he has a fat contract with the Pacers and he's fighting for an All-Star spot as a franchise cornerstone next to Paul George. The grass isn't always greener folks. 
  • The way it stands now, the only guy on the roster who can slide into that 3-and-D role on the wings is Wesley Johnson. As crazy as it sounds, he might be the X factor for the Clippers because I can't see anyone else with the skill-set to succeed as the fifth starter. Crawford and Pierce are too old and can't guard, Lance and Mbah A Moute can't shoot and Rivers is too small. How much does Clippers nation miss Neil Olshey these days? 
SVG seems to be doing a better job of as a Coach/GM than Doc because he has a coherent vision for what he wants his roster to look like but even he still seems to be missing things on the margins when it comes to overpaying guys like Aron Baynes or riding with vets like Steve Blake until their wheels literally fall off. It's just too hard to perform both roles and balance the short term vs. the long term. 
  • Andre Drummond did a couple very interesting things today. No. 1 was his little righty hook shot which looked REALLY good. For a guy who often seems like he has absolutely no idea what he's doing when it comes to scoring in the post, he showed great fluidity and touch with that hook at times. It's definitely not consistent yet and it's the only move he has with his back to the basket but it's the start of something. There were a few possessions against the Clips where that hook looked like a legitimate weapon for Drummond. You really only need three moves in the post - the hook shot, the counter the other way and the up-and-under. If he ever gets all that together, the rest of the league better watch out. 
    • He also busted out a behind-the-back pass in traffic twice that resulted in open shots for his teammates and he continues to improve as a rim protector. We are watching the development of one of the next great players in the NBA in real time. Drummond is only 22 and he is getting better by the week.
  • Reggie Jackson started the game strong - he was knocking down the floater and hitting the 3-point shot. If he can continue to make those shots all season, he's going to be in the conversation for an All-Star berth. Drummond is a lock so the Pistons will have to win a lot of games for RJax to have a chance but SVG is starting to look outright prophetic with that contract he gave out this summer.
    • An interesting switch the Clippers made in the 2nd half was being way more aggressive on Jackson in the two-man game with their big men. They didn't give him nearly as much space or time to get comfortable, which worked because they have some really fast big men. 
  • KCP is super fast and he does a good job of attacking close-outs and finishing at the rim when teams run him off the 3-point line. It's just going to be a matter of how many open 3's can he make - he's a career 34% shooter from 3 and he's at 31% this season. If he could ever get that number into the high 30's, he will be a very rich man.
  • Another very impressive game for Stanley Johnson, even though he was a -11 in 18 minutes. What stands out is his feel for the game and what a good playmaker he is already. He only had 1 assist but he was making great passes and creating open shots for his teammates whenever he had the ball. He doesn't force the action and he knows how to read the floor, which is pretty unusual for a rookie with his type of athleticism who played only one season of college.
    • The great thing about SJ is his versatility. He has the size to guard 3's and 4's and the speed to play as a 2. He was cooking Austin Rivers in the 2Q when the Pistons caught the Clippers playing 2 PG line-ups against a perimeter trio of SJ and two combo forwards. I'm not sure what his ceiling is but they could have a legitimate Big 3 with Drummond, Jackson and Johnson. 
  • I can't believe Steve Blake is getting minutes in the NBA. Blake vs. Pablo Prigioni had to be the slowest individual match-up at the PG position in the history of the league. There was one sequence where Blake was ahead of everyone else in transition and had an open lay-up if he could have tracked down a ball that was passed 5-10 feet in front of him. He barely tracked it down. They need Brandon Jennings back ASAP. 
It has been a tough stretch of games for Detroit and they definitely need to get home and get their legs back under them but Drummond still makes this team a must-watch. I'm curious to watch him vs. the Cavs frontline on Tuesday and vs. Karl Towns on Friday. A little later in the month, Drummond vs. Dwight on November 30 should be fascinating in a battle of Christmas Past vs. Christmas Present for SVG.

1 comment:

  1. With all the commercials it feels funny writing this, but I think Blake Griffin is the most under appreciated player in the league. How he played when CP3 was out solidified him as a top 5 player.