LOS ANGELES — The long grind of the NBA season is about building habits, building sustainable ways to win that can carry a team through the playoffs.
For the Clippers this season, that building focus is on defense (their offense is going to score plenty). Before his team’s opening night game Tuesday the Clippers’ Doc Rivers said his team was a pretty good defensive team last season, they just needed to defend the three point line better and defend better in transition.
Well… the Lakers hit 14-of-29 from three (48 percent) and ran past the Lakers to get the win Tuesday.
“I thought we lost our compure a little bit, I thought we lost our discipline maybe more, so we got a lot of work to do,” Rivers said.
That much was painfully obvious to anyone who saw the game. But okay then, what kind of work builds a defense? Rivers called it the “boring process.”
“Just with repetition,” Rivers said. “It’s not that hard, it really isn’t. Trust first, then repetition. I thought we broke our trust early, I thought we dodged a ton of bullets in the first half… they were shooting 42 percent and our defense wasn’t very good. And I kept saying guys, every time we break down eventually they are going to make some of those shots and I think in the second half they did.”
As he has all preseason, Rivers was careful to prop up his pet project for this season — DeAndre Jordan — while taking a little shot at a Clipper star.
“I thought DJ was sensational, I thought him in particular. Blake, we have to get him better defensively, but everybody,” Rivers said. “But I thought DJ was sensational… I would love to say (the breakdowns) was the bigs, but it wasn’t a lot of times. Our guards pulled in at the wrong time, going for steals, gambling, breaking coverage. It’s just like in football, if you break coverage you better hope the quarterback doesn’t see it, and tonight I thought they passed the ball great and saw everything.”
Rivers other postgame message to his team? You better get used to this kind of effort to beat you.
“Good lesson for us. The good thing is we have 81 more games, the bad thing is everybody is going to play us that way,” Rivers said. “When you’re anointed before doing it people are going to attack you. And we’re going to have to get used to that type of energy every night. “
The Clippers need to fix their defensive trust issues quickly — they play Golden State Thursday. If you think the Lakers bench could knock down threes, get a load of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Pacers 97, Orlando 87: Indiana’s defense did what you expect — Roy Hibbert blocked 7 shots, the Magic shot just 38.7 percent as a team (and 37.5 percent inside 8 feet) and Orlando ended up scoring just 84.1 points per 100 possessions. Still the Magic hung around in this one until a 15-1 ending the third quarter and opening the fourth by the improved Pacer bench put the game out of reach.
Heat 107, Bulls 95: That score makes this look a lot closer than it was — Miami took control of the game in the second quarter, led by 25 and while the Bulls tried to make it interesting with a late run there just wasn’t that much doubt how this would end. While the big three for was solid, it was the bench that really won this for Miami — Shane Battier was 4-of-4 from three on his way to 14, Mario Chalmers had 13, Ray Allen hit three from beyond the arc, Norris Cole was a team best +17.
Lakers 116, Clippers 103: The Lakers bench scored 76 points on the above-mentioned pourus Clippers defense and played like a Mike D’Antoni team — the ball found energy. Xavier Henry had a career high 22 points, Jordan Farmar had 16 and the Lakers got an improbably — but for them very satisfying — win.