We said this before the season and we said it before the start of the playoffs — the fate of the Clippers really hinged on two things:
1) Playing good defense (they allowed the Grizzlies more than 100 points In Game 5 and had a defensive rating of 111.3).
2) DeAndre Jordan needed to play big for them.
With Blake Griffin hobbled by injury Los Angeles especially needed Jordan on Tuesday night and he had a very pedestrian night — 6 points on 3-of-7 shooting and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes. And that line doesn’t address his defensive struggles against the Grizzlies bigs. Now the Clippers are down 3-2 in the best of seven and have to win Game 6 on the road.
Vinny Del Negro was frustrated after the game and vented a little, reports the Daily News.
“I don’t know if crossroads is the right (word) but there’s definitely a level you have to play at right now that is much different,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He has a much different responsibility now. He understands it. I haven’t seen the consistency that I like. He hasn’t seen the consistency he would like….
“I didn’t see him controlling the game the way I thought he needed to, and at that stage you have to go with someone you feel can,” Del Negro said….
“Defensively, offensively, being a threat out there on the glass, using his length, athleticism,” Del Negro said. “But it’s up to him to get out there and earn his minutes and work through anything that’s thrown at him during the game.”
Now for some context. First, Del Negro’s job is on the line here, he doesn’t have a contract past the end of this season and if the Clippers are bounced the odds he gets a new contract drop. Ultimately, a nod from Chris Paul either way could decide Del Negro’s fate, but you know a competitive guy like CP3 is going to be frustrated.
Also remember at the trade deadline when there was a lot of “the Clippers would trade DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett” talk? That was pushed by Del Negro talking to Danny Ainge, not the rest of the Clippers front office. The guys upstairs in the suits had no interest in moving Jordan (and the Celtics were not likely to make that deal anyway). But that created friction between Del Negro and the front office, and this little show is tied to that.
Just remember that as the fate of Del Negro is decided in the coming weeks. Unless Jordan has a monster game in Memphis for Game 6 and keeps his team alive.