Before the season started what was the mantra about the Clippers on this site (and most others)?
It’s all about the defense.
With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin (who has a more diverse game than many fans give him credit for), plus Jamal Crawford off the bench, the Clippers were going to score points. A lot of them. And they are fifth in the NBA at 107.1 points per 100 possessions. Between the Nuggets and the Spurs. Which is to say championship level.
The Clippers were always going to go only as far as their defense will carry them. Right now that doesn’t look very far — they are 7-8 in their last 15 stumbling toward the playoffs.
In one of the must read pieces of the day, Mike Prada broke the Clippers defense down like a point guard off the dribble at SBNation.
When they were winning, L.A. was hovering in the top five in defensive efficiency, but things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse in recent weeks. The Clippers have surrendered an average of 105.7 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break. Only sub-.500 Milwaukee, at 105.8/100 possessions, is worse among the 16 playoff teams. When you narrow the sample to March 1 and later, the Clippers fall behind Milwaukee on that list.
What has caused the Clippers’ tremendous defensive fall? A look at the tape reveals a club that has no coherent plan on how to defend any sort of play.
That last sentence is not followed up with picture of Vinny Del Negro, but it might as well be.
Prada goes on in detail, with images, to show how the Clippers try to vary their pick-and-roll coverages but don’t really execute any of them well. Rather than being really good at one way of handling the play and throwing in other things to mix it up occasionally, the Clips are mediocre at a lot of things.
Which comes back to the question: What is the Clippers defensive identity? Is it to blitz the ball handler, force turnovers and attack in transition? A more patient solid style like the Celtics or Bulls? We don’t really know, the Clippers are kind of a mishmash.
And in just over two weeks that lack of identity could cost them a lot.